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SECTION VII. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The apostle, having delivered his attack on the system of error inculcated at Colossae, now passes from the controversial to the more practical purport of his letter. There is no break, however, in the current of his thought; for throughout this chapter he urges the pursuit of a practical Christian life in a sense and in a manner silently opposed to the tendencies of Gnosticizing error. How much more congenial was the task to which he now addresses himself we may judge, perhaps, from the ease and simplicity which mark the language of this chapter, as compared with the abrupt and seemingly embarrassed style of the last section. We may analyze the hortatory section of the Epistle (Colossians 3:1-51.4.6) as follows:
(a) Colossians 3:1-51.3.4, urging the Colossians to maintain a lofty spiritual life;
(b) verses 5-8, to put off their old vices, impurity, malice, falsehood;
(c) verses 9-14, to put on the new Christian virtues, especially gentleness, forgivingness, love;
(d) verses 15-17, to let the sovereign influence of Christ sway their whole life—inward, social, secular;
(e) verse 18—Colossians 4:1, enjoining the Christian discharge of their relative duties, as wives and husbands, children and fathers, servants and masters, under the sense of their allegiance to the Lord Christ;
(f) Colossians 4:2-51.4.4, exhorting to constant prayer, and especially for the apostle himself at the present juncture; and
(g) Colossians 4:5, Colossians 4:6, to wise conduct and edifying speech toward them that are without. It will be seen how much more comprehensive and systematic is the view thus presented of Christian duty than that furnished by earlier Epistles; and how the ideas of the supremacy of Christ, the unity of the Christian brotherhood, and the sacredness of the natural constitution of human life, which were threatened by the rise of Gnosticism in Colossae, underlie the apostle's exposition of Christian ethics. Paragraphs (a) to (d) in the above analysis we have grouped together under the title given to this section; (e) demands a separate treatment; and (f) and (g) will finally be bracketed together.
Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2
If, therefore, ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at God's right hand; mind the things above, not the things upon the earth (Colossians 2:11-51.2.13, Colossians 2:20; Romans 6:1-45.6.11; Ephesians 1:20-49.1.22; Philippians 3:20; Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20; Luke 12:13-42.12.40). The apostle has already shown that when his readers, entering the gate of baptism, became Christians through faith in Christ, they died with him (Colossians 2:20), were buried, then raised and made alive together with him (Colossians 2:11-51.2.13): comp. Romans 6:1-45.6.11. So they were restored to peace and favour with God (Colossians 1:21-51.1.23; Colossians 2:13, Colossians 2:14), severed from their old life of sin (Colossians 2:11), and set in the path of holiness (Colossians 1:22). At the same time, they left behind all childish, tentative forms and notions ("rudiments") of religion, whether Jewish or non-Jewish (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:20-51.2.23). They became dead both from sin and from human modes of salvation. Both are included in "the things upon the earth," to which belong at once the grosser sensual forms of sin (Romans 6:5) with its "surfeiting of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23), and that vaunted philosophy, which is after all earth born and earthward tending (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20), bringing the soul again into bondage to material things. The apostle lifts his readers into a new, heavenly sphere. He bids them make "the things above," i.e. "the things of Christ," the one object of their thought and endeavour. So they will master the flesh by rising above it, instead of fighting it on its own ground by ceremonial rite and ascetic regimen. "The things above" are no abstract, transcendental conception, as in the theology of St. Paul's opponents, for they are "where Christ is." The things "in the heavens" as well as those "upon the earth" were created "in him, through him, unto him" (Colossians 1:16); there he is Lord, even as here (Colossians 1:17; Colossians 2:10; Matthew 28:18). His presence gives distinctness and positiveness to the Christian's view of heaven, and concentrates his interests and affections there (comp. Philippians 1:23; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6; Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20; John 12:26; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; Acts 7:56). "Seated" is placed with emphasis at the end of its clause, indicating the completeness of the Saviour's work and the dignity of his position (comp. Ephesians 1:20-49.1.22; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13; Revelation 3:21; and see Pearson on the Creed, art. 6.). (For "the things above," see Romans 6:3, Romans 6:4; also Colossians 1:5 and Colossians 2:18 compared with Philippians 3:11-50.3.14, Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21; Romans 2:7; Romans 8:17-45.8.23; 1 Corinthians 15:42-46.15.49; 2 Corinthians 4:16-47.5.8; John 17:24.) To "seek" these things is to strive that they may be ours in the future; to "mind" them is to occupy our thoughts with them in the present. (For the word "mind" (φρονέω), comp. Philippians 3:19 and Romans 8:5-45.8.7 (φρόνημα, minding); in Romans 14:6 it is rendered by "regard.")
For ye died, and your life is hid, with Christ, in God (Colossians 2:11-51.2.13, Colossians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22; Philippians 3:20; Romans 6:1-45.6.14; Romans 7:1-45.7.6; 2Co 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:23; John 15:5; John 12:26; Revelation 3:21). In this hidden life of the Christian lies the ground and the spring of the more outward life of thought and endeavour of Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2. And this life comes through death, from that "dying with Christ" out of which we "rose with him" (Colossians 3:1; Colossians 2:11-51.2.13, Colossians 2:20; Romans 6:3, Romans 6:4, Romans 6:8). "The aorist ἀπεθάνετε ('ye died') denotes the past act; the perfect κέκρυπται ('hath been and is hid') the permanent effects" (Lightfoot). (On the nature of this death, see notes to Colossians 2:11-51.2.13.) "Died—and your life!" this paradox is explained in Romans 6:10, Romans 6:11, and repeated in Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15. The Christian's life is lodged in the sphere of "the unseen and eternal." It centres in Christ, and as he is hidden—withdrawn from the world of sense, yet with us always in his Spirit (John 14:16-43.14.20; John 16:16-43.16.22)—so our life with him. And if "with Christ," then "in God;" for "Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:23); "lives to God" (Romans 6:10), and "is at God's right hand" (2 Corinthians 5:1), being "the Son of his love" (Colossians 1:13; John 1:18). The apostle says, "in God" ("in heaven," Philippians 3:19), to emphasize the fact of the union of Christ with God, or perhaps to deepen the reader's sense of the sacredness of this life in Christ. "Is hid" (Colossians 1:26,Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3), another allusion to the fondness of the Colossian errorists for mysteries. In Colossians 1:26 St. Paul spoke of the ancient mystery of a Christ for all the world; then of the new, perpetual mystery of a Christ dwelling within believing hearts. But this second mystery is equally that of our life in Christ as of Christ's life in us, lifting us to heaven while it brings him down to earth. This mutual indwelling of the Head in heaven and the members upon earth is the most intimate and inscrutable of all secrets (John 14:20; John 15:1-43.15.7; John 17:22, John 17:23, John 17:26). "The world knows neither Christ nor Christians, and Christians do not even know themselves" (Bengel). But as the old historic secret had its manifestation at last (Colossians 1:26), so will the new secret that lies enfolded within every Christian life—
When Christ shall be manifested, our (or, your,) life, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory (Romans 8:18-45.8.23; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1Ti 6:15; 2 Timothy 2:10-55.2.12; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 2:28). Our future destiny, with our present redemption (Colossians 1:14), is wrapped up in Christ. Our life is not only "with him" (Colossians 3:3); it is "himself" (Philippians 1:21; John 1:4; John 6:50-43.6.57; John 14:6; 1 John 5:12); he is its source and ground, way and rule, means and end—its all (Colossians 3:11 : comp. Colossians 1:20; Colossians 2:6-51.2.10; Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:17-49.3.19; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:10; Philippians 4:19, etc.). From the hour of his ascension he has been hidden (Acts 1:9; Acts 3:21; 1 Peter 1:8); and his manifestation is as much a part of the Christian creed as his death and resurrection (Acts 17:31; 1Th 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2Th 2:8; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 4:1; John 14:3; 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:3; Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:20). Then the Christian will have his manifestation also with him, in the "revelation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19); who will receive their second "adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body" (Romans 8:23). "Seeing him as he is" in his glory, "we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2) in glory. At last the spiritual life of the soul will have its due organic expression, in a body perfect and heavenly as itself (1 Corinthians 15:35-46.15.49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-47.5.5). This is already the case with our human nature in Christ (Philippians 3:21); and the change will proceed from the Head to the members (1 Corinthians 15:23), who will be conformed to his "body of glory," as now they are being conformed to his spiritual image (Romans 8:9-45.8.11, Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30; Rom 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; John 17:22-43.17.26; 1 John 4:17). The textual change from "your" to "our" is doubtful (see note on Colossians 2:13). Observe that "Christ" is repeated four times in the last four verses.
Make dead, therefore, the (or, your) members that are upon the earth (Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:21, Ephesians 4:22; Philippians 3:19; Romans 6:6; Romans 8:13; Romans 13:14). "Your" is omitted by most textual critics, but English idiom requires it in translation. In its absence a stronger emphasis falls on the defining clause, "that are upon the earth." As these things may no longer be pursued or studied (Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2), the organs devoted to them must be put to death. These members are indeed those of the actual body (Romans 6:13, Romans 6:19; Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23; Romans 8:13); but these in so far as ruled hitherto by sinful impulse and habit, constituting the body of "the old man" (Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:22; Romans 6:6), "of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11), "of sin," and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24), with "sinful passions working in its members, bearing fruit unto death" (Romans 7:5): setup, note, Colossians 2:11. That body is "made dead" by destruction of the evil passions that animated it. The body of "the new man" is physically identical with it, but different in moral habit and diathesis—a difference that manifests itself even in bodily expression and manner (2 Corinthians 5:17). Νεκρόω occurs besides in the New Testament only in Romans 4:19 and Hebrews 11:12 (in Romans 8:13, a still stronger word is used of "the practices" of the body): as the aged Abraham had been made dead in respect of the natural possibility of fatherhood, so the body of the Christian is to be dead for purposes of sin. If there were any doubt as to the writer's meaning, the next clause removes it. His language has approached that of the philosophical ascetics (see Colossians 2:23, note and quotations); hence the abrupt explanatory apposition that follows: fornication, uncleanness, (sensual) passion, evil desire, and covetousness, the which is idolatry (Ephesians 5:3-49.5.5; Php 3:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-46.6.11; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Rom 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:17; Matthew 6:24, Matthew 6:31, Matthew 6:32; Luke 12:21; Psalms 49:6; Psalms 52:7). To these vices the Colossian Gentiles (some of them at least) had been to such a degree devoted that their members had become virtually identified therewith. The first two sins are related as particular and general. The second pair, πάθος and ἐπιθυμία, are combined in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 in contrast to "(bodily) sanctification and honour" (comp. Colossians 2:23, and "passions of dishonour," Romans 1:26). The former denotes a morbid, inflamed condition of the sensual appetite; the latter, craving for some particular gratification of it (see Trench's 'Synonyms'). Neither of these words is etymologically, or invariably, evil in sense. The degradation of such terms in all languages is a sad evidence of the corruption of our nature. Πλεονεξία is both wider and more intense in meaning than our "covetousness." It denotes radically the disposition to "have more," "grasping greed," "selfishness grown to a passion." Hence it applies to sins of impurity, greediness for sensual pleasure (1 Thessalonians 4:6; Ephesians 4:19); but by the emphatic use of the article ("the covetousness"), and by the words that follow, it is marked out as a distinct type of sin; so in Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:5, where "uncleanness" and "greed" are stigmatized as vile forms of sin. This word, often used by St. Paul, is peculiar to him in the New Testament. "The which" (ἥτις: setup. ἃτινα, Colossians 2:23) gives a reason while it states a fact ("inasmuch as it is idolatry"). For the thought, setup. Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 6:17, also Matthew 6:24; it is a commonplace of religion, and appears in Philo and Jewish rabbis (see Lightfoot). Lightfoot places a colon after "upon the earth," and supposes "fornication," etc., to be "proleptic accusatives,'' looking forward to some verb unexpressed, such as "put off" (Matthew 6:8). But this is needless, and the command, "make dead your members," requires this qualifying explanation. The grammatical awkwardness of the apposition is not without rhetorical effect.
Because of which (things) the anger of God cometh [upon the sons of disobedience] (Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 5:6; Galatians 5:21; Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5-45.2.9; Romans 5:9; 1Th 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-53.1.10; John 3:36; Revelation 6:17; Ma Revelation 3:2). The latter phrase is cancelled by Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort; but retained by Ellicott and, preferentially, by the Revisers. The witnesses against it, though numerically few, are varied and select, and the parallel (Ephesians 5:6) would suggest insertion of the words if originally absent. "The anger of God is coming" is a sentence complete in itself (setup. Romans 1:18). God's "anger" (ὀργή) is his settled punitive indignation against sin, of which his "wrath" (θυμός) is the terrible outflaming (Revelation 16:1; Revelation 14:10); see Trench's 'Synonyms.' "Cometh" implies a continuing fact or fixed principle; or rather, perhaps, signifies that this "anger" is in course of manifestation, is "on the way:" comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "the anger that is coming," not "to come," also the use of ἔρχομαι in John 14:3, John 14:18; Hebrews 10:37. The objects of this anger ("children of wrath," Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 2:3) are "the sons of disobedience." The expressive Hebraism by which a man is said to be s child or son of the dominant quality or influence of his life is frequent in the New Testament.
In which also ye walked once, when you were living in these (things) (Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 5:8; Romans 6:19-45.6.21; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 4:3). Even retaining "sons of disobedience" in Colossians 3:6, it seems better, with Alford, Lightfoot, and the English Version, to read οἷς as neuter, "in which," referring to the same antecedent (Colossians 3:5)as "because of which" in Colossians 3:6; not "amongst whom" (Ellicott, Meyer). The latter interpretation is against the general usage of "walk in" with St. Paul (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2; Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:2), and seems to condemn the mere fact of living "amongst the sons of disobedience" (see, on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 5:9,1 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 2:15; John 17:15; 1 Peter 2:12). The parallel "because of which" (Colossians 3:6) gives also its force: these sins are visited with the Divine anger, and moreover are the very sins in which the Colossians aforetime had lived; observe the same connection in Ephesians 5:6-49.5.8; 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 6:11. "Were living" stands opposed to "make dead" of 1 Corinthians 6:5, and to "ye died" (1 Corinthians 6:3 : comp. Colossians 2:20; Galatians 2:20); it marks the time when "the old man" (1 Corinthians 6:9), with his "earthly members'' (1 Corinthians 6:5) was alive and active (comp. Romans 7:5, Romans 7:9, "sin came to life"). "In these things" (τούτοις, not αὐτοῖς: Revised Text) points to the things enumerated in 1 Corinthians 6:6, with a mental gesture of contempt.
But now do ye put away indeed all these (things) (Colossians 3:9; Colossians 2:11; Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:25; Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 2:1). The thought of the death of the old life gives place to that of the divesting of the old habit; the new life wears a new dress, Mark the triumphant emphasis in "but now!" (opposed to the "once" of verse 8), characteristic of the writer (comp. Colossians 1:1-51.1.29, Colossians 1:21, Colossians 1:26; Romans 3:21; Romans 6:22, etc.). Τὰ πάντα ("all these things," "the whole" of them) summarizes the vices specified in verse 5, and forms the starting point of another series, in which malice predominates, as impurity in the previous list; anger, wrath, malice, evil speaking, foul speech from your mouth (Ephesians 4:26-49.4.31; Ephesians 5:4; Romans 1:29-45.1.31; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:20, Galatians 5:21; Titus 3:3). There is a similar order and division between these two chief classes of sin in the parallel passages. In Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32 and Ephesians 5:3-49.5.5 the order is reversed. "Anger" (ὀργή) is ascribed to God in Ephesians 5:6 (comp. Ephesians 4:26; Hebrews 10:30). (On "anger" and "wrath" (or "rage"), see Ephesians 5:6.) The latter is once ascribed to God by St. Paul (Romans 2:8), more frequently in the Apocalypse. In man it is universally condemned. (For κακία, malignity, badness of disposition, comp. Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Titus 3:3; see Trench's 'Synonyms.') Βλασφημία, in its original sense, includes injurious speech of any kind, either against man or God (see Romans 3:8; Rom 14:16; 1 Corinthians 10:30; Titus 3:2). Αἰσχρὸς in αἰσχρολογία (only here in the New Testament) denotes, like the English "foul," either "scurrilous" or "filthy." The former kind of speech is suggested by the foregoing blasphemia; but especially in such an atmosphere as that of Greek city life, scurrility commonly runs into filthiness. In Ephesians 5:4, where a slightly different word occurs, the latter idea is prominent. The two last vices, being sins of speech, must be put away "out of your mouth." "Your" bears the emphasis in the Greek; such utterance is quite unfit for a Christian mouth (comp. Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:4; James 3:10; and the prohibition of lying in the next verse).
Lie not one to another, having stripped off the old man with his deeds (Ephesians 4:14, Eph 4:15; 20-25; 1 Timothy 1:6; Revelation 21:8; Colossians 2:11; Romans 6:6; Romans 8:12, Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24). The imperatives of Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:8 were aorists, enjoining a single, decisive act; this is present, as in Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2, Colossians 3:15, Colossians 3:18, etc., giving a rule of life. Only in Colossians and Ephesians do we find the apostle give a general warning against lying. What reason there was for this we cannot tell; unless it lay in the deceit of the heretical teachers (Colossians 2:8 : comp. Ephesians 4:14, Ephesians 4:15; Act 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 4:2; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9). The lying in question is uttered within the Church ("to one another"), and is fatal to its unity (verse 11; Ephesians 4:25; Acts 20:28-44.20.30). The following aorist participles, "having stripped off" and "having put on" (verse 10), may, grammatically, be part of the command—"strip off," etc., and "lie not"—as e.g. in 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 12:1; or may state the fact on which that command is based. The latter view is preferable (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, English Version; but see Lightfoot); for the participles describe a change already realized—a change of principle, which has, however, still to be more fully carried out in practice (Colossians 2:11-51.2.13, Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:3,Colossians 3:7,Colossians 3:11; Ephesians 4:20-49.4.24; Galatians 3:27, Galatians 3:28): in Hebrews 12:12 the imperative mood is resumed with an emphatic "therefore," implying a previous reference to fact. (On the double compound ἀπ εκ δυσάμενοι, "having stripped off (and put) away," see notes, Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:15.) The "Old man"; is the former self, the "I no longer living" (Galatians 2:20) of the Colossian believer, to whom "the members that are upon the earth" (Colossians 2:5) belonged—the entire sinful personality of "him who is in the flesh" (Romans 8:8). His "deeds" ("practices," "habits of doing," Romans 8:13; see Trench's 'Synonyms' on πράσσω) are the pursuits of which Colossians 2:5, Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:9 supply examples.
And having put on the new (man), which is being renewed unto (full) knowledge, after (the) image of him that created him (Ephesians 4:23, Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 2:15; Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6; Romans 8:1-45.8.4; Romans 13:12-45.13.14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3; Genesis 1:26-1.1.28; Matthew 5:48; Heb 12:10; 1 Peter 1:16; Romans 8:29). New (νέος) is "young," "of recent date" (compare the "once," "but now" of Colossians 3:7, Colossians 3:8; also Colossians 1:5-51.1.8; 1 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 2:2). whose birth was well remembered, and which presented so vivid a contrast to the "old man with his deeds." "Being renewed" (ἀνακαινούμενον, derived from the adjective καινός) sets forth the other side of this newness, its novelty of quality and condition (compare "newness of life," Romans 6:4). And this participle is in the present tense (continuous), while the former is in the aorist (historical). So the notions are combined of a new birth taking place once for all, and a new character in course of formation. In Ephesians 4:23, Ephesians 4:24 these ideas are in the same order (see Trench's 'Synonyms'). "Full knowledge" was one purpose of this renewal, the purpose most necessary to be set before the Colossians. The nature and objects of this knowledge have been already specified (Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10 : comp. Ephesians 1:18, Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:18, Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 3:8-50.3.14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-46.1.31; and on ἐπίγνωσις, see note, Colossians 1:6). "After (the) image" is clearly an allusion to Genesis 1:26-1.1.28; so in Ephesians 4:24 ("after God"). It is adverbial to "renewed," not to "knowledge." Man's renewal in Christ makes him what the Creator at first designed him to be, namely, his own image (compare note on "reconcile," Colossians 1:20). Chrysostom and others take "Christ" as "him that created," in view of Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:16; but then it is said that all things "were created in … through … for Christ," not absolutely that Christ created them. But "the image of God after which" man was created and is now recreated, is seen in Christ (Romans 8:29; 2Co 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:18).
Where there is (or, can be) no Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman (Galatians 3:28; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:14-49.2.18; Ephesians 4:25; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 15:5-45.15.12; Philemon 1:15, Philemon 1:16; John 17:20-43.17.23; Luke 22:24-42.22.27; John 13:12-43.13.17). That ἔνι means "can be," "negativing, not merely the fact, but the possibility," is doubtful in view of 1 Corinthians 6:5 (Revised Text). "In Christ" these distinctions are non-existent. There is no place for them. These and the following words indicate the sphere, as "unto knowledge" the end, and "after the image" the ideal or norm, of the progressive renewal to be effected in the Colossian believer. It can be carried on only where and so far as these distinctions are set aside. The "new man" knows nothing of them. The enmity between Greek and Jew being removed, the malice and falsehood that grew out of it will disappear (1 Corinthians 6:8, 1 Corinthians 6:9 : comp. Romans 15:7; Ephesians 4:25). In Galatians 3:28 "Jew" stands first, and the distinction of sex is added. The distinctions here enumerated appear as looked at from the Greek side. Only here in the New Testament does "Greek" precede "Jew" (comp. Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13, etc.). "Barbarian" (Romans 1:14) and "Scythian" (only here in the New Testament) are together opposed to "Greek," and imply want of culture rather than alien nationality, the Scythian being the rudest of barbarians (see Lightfoot's full note). Such terms of contempt would, in Asia Minor, be commonly applied by Greeks to the native population. The party who affected philosophic culture (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:23) may, perhaps, have applied them to simple, uneducated Christians (see note on Colossians 1:28). (On "circumcision," see Colossians 2:11; and for the connection with Colossians 2:9, comp. Galatians 6:15.) For "bond" and "free," a division then pervading society universally, comp. Galatian list. Onesimus and Philemon are doubtless in the apostle's mind. On this relationship he enlarges in the next section (Colossians 3:22-51.4.1). The four pairs of opposed terms represent distinctions
(1) of race,
(2) of religious privilege,
(3) of culture,
(4) of social rank.
But Christ is all things, and in all (Colossians 1:15-51.1.20; Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10; Colossians 3:4, Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:13-49.2.22; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 1:21; Philippians 3:7-50.3.14; Philippians 4:19; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:2, Galatians 5:4; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:32, Romans 8:39). "Christ" stands at the end of the sentence, with accumulated emphasis. The Church regards and values each man in his relation to Christ, and bids every other consideration bow to this. He is "all things"—our common centre, our standard of reference, and fount of honour, the stun of all we acknowledge and desire; and he is "in all"—the common life and soul of his people, the substance of all we experience and possess as Christians. The second "all" is masculine (so most commentators, from Chrysostom downwards), referring more specially to the classes just enumerated. Similarly, in Ephesians 4:6 : comp. Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 1:15; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:19. (While he is "in all," it is equally true that all are "in him:" comp. John 15:4; John 17:23, John 17:26.) Just as in the spiritual sphere, and in the relations between God and man, Christ is shown to be all, so that "principalities and powers" are comparatively insignificant (Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15); so in the moral sphere, and in the relations between man and man. All human distinctions, like all angelic offices, must pay homage to his supremacy, and submit to the reconciling unity of his kingdom (Ephesians 1:10).
Put on, therefore, as elect of God, holy, [and] beloved (Colossians 3:9,Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 1:3-49.1.5; Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14; 1Th 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:1; Romans 8:28-45.8.39; 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:1). The terms "elect," "holy" (same as "saints," Colossians 1:2; see note), "beloved," apply alike and separately to those addressed. Bengel, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott prefer to read "holy and beloved elect (ones);" but "holy" and "beloved" are used frequently by St. Paul as distinct substantive expressions, and indicate conditions ensuing on, rather than determining, election. Colossian believers are "elect" in virtue of an antecedent choice of them to salvation on the part of God, as those who would believe on his Son (1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 8:28-45.8.30; 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2). Their whole Christian standing springs from and witnesses to God's eternal (Ephesians 1:4) election of them—an election which, however, presumes faith on their part from beginning to end (Colossians 1:22, Colossians 1:23; Romans 9:30-45.9.33; Romans 11:5-45.11.10,Romans 11:17-45.11.24). "Elect" and "called," with St. Paul, are coextensive terms: comp. Romans 1:7 (R.V.) with this passage, also 1 Corinthians 1:26, 1 Corinthians 1:27. To address the Colossian Christians as elect is to remind them of all that they owe to God's grace. "Elect" as chosen by God, they are "holy" as devoted to God. By the latter title they were first addressed (Colossians 1:2); holiness is the essence of Christian character. That they should gain this character and appear in it at the last judgment was the purpose of Christ's atoning death (Colossians 1:21, Colossians 1:22), as it was the purpose of God's eternal election of believers (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 2:9). "And" is marked as doubtful by Lightfoot, Westcott and Heft; "it is impossible not to feel how much the sentence gains in form by its omission" (Lightfoot). "Beloved" (ἠγαπημένοι) is the perfect participle passive; it describes the position of those who, carrying out by their present holiness the purpose of their past election, are the objects of God's abiding love (1 Thessalonians 1:4). This love dictated their election and set at work the means by which it should be secured (Ephesians 1:3-49.1.14; Ephesians 2:4; Romans 8:28-45.8.30, Romans 8:39; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:10). As its purposes are increasingly fulfilled in them, it rests on them with an abiding complacency and satisfaction (Ephesians 5:1; John 14:21-43.14.23). Christ is "the beloved One" (Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17, etc.), and those who are "in him" in their measure share the same title (John 17:23-43.17.26). But their choice by God and devotion to God, who is all love to them (Romans 8:39; 1 John 4:16), must in turn beget a loving heart in them (1 John 4:11). A heart of pity, kindness, lowliness of mind, meekness, long suffering (Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:32-49.5.2; Philippians 2:1-50.2.4; Gal 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Tit 3:2; 1 Peter 3:8, 1 Peter 3:9; Matthew 5:5, Matthew 5:7; Matthew 11:29; Luke 6:35, Luke 6:36). "The σπλάγχνα are properly the nobler viscera" rather than the bowels. The use of this figure, found three times in Philemon, is Hebraistic (comp. Luke 1:78; 2 Corinthians 6:12; Phil 7, 12, 20; James 5:11; 1 John 3:17), though similar expressions occur in Greek poets. "Pity" (or, "compassion") is an attribute of God in Rom 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3 : comp. Luke 6:36 ("pitiful") (On kindness, or kindliness, see Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Corinthians 6:6—in each case following "long suffering;" Romans 11:22, where it is opposed to "severity" in God (comp. Romans 2:4); Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4, where it is ascribed to God in his dealing with men in Christ; also Matthew 11:30.) It is synonymous with "goodness" (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9; Matthew 7:11; Matthew 12:35, etc.); but "goodness" looks chiefly to benefit intended or conferred, "kindness" to the spirit and manner of bestowal (see Trench's 'Synonym'). The objects of "pity" are the suffering and miserable; of "kindness," the needy and dependent. The "lowliness of mind" of Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:23 was something specious and to be guarded against; here it is the central and essential element of the true Christian temper (Acts 20:19; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 5:5; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14), its self-regarding element (Romans 12:3). It is linked with meekness, as in Ephesians 4:2 and Matthew 11:29. "Pity" and "kindness," preceding "humility," relate to the claims of others upon us; "meekness" and "long suffering," to our bearing towards them. "Meekness," the opposite of rudeness and self assertion (1 Corinthians 13:5), is a delicate consideration for the rights and feelings of others, especially necessary in administering rebuke or discipline (Galatians 6:1; 2Ti 2:25; 1 Corinthians 4:21; Titus 3:2), and conspicuous in Christ (Matthew 11:29; Matthew 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1). St. Peter marks it as a womanly virtue (1 Peter 3:4). "Long suffering" is called forth by the conduct of "the evil and unthankful" (see Colossians 1:11, and note). St. Paul claims this quality for himself (2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Timothy 3:10). Throughout Scripture it is ascribed to God (Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4; Rom 9:22; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2Pe 3:9, 2 Peter 3:15, etc.).
Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other (literally, yourselves), if any one have a complaint against any. (On "bearing with" or "forbearing," see 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 11:19, 2 Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 17:17.) It is ascribed to God, with "long-suffering," especially as shown in his dealing with the sins of men before the coming of Christ (Romans 2:4; Romans 3:26 : comp. Acts 17:30). Long suffering may be shown towards all who do us injury; forbearance especially towards those from whom regard or obedience is due. It falls short of forgiveness, which can only ensue on repentance (Luke 17:3, Luke 17:4 : comp. Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26; Acts 17:30). The change of pronoun in the two participial clauses appears also in Ephesians 4:2 and Ephesians 4:32 : the first is reciprocal, but the second is reflexive, implying the oneness of the forgiving and the forgiven party. Forgiving a Christian brother, it is as though a man were forgiving himself (comp. Ephesians 4:14, Ephesians 4:15; Galatians 6:1; Romans 12:5; Romans 15:5-45.15.7; and the same variation in 1 Peter 4:8-60.4.10). "Forgive" is literally "to grant grace," used of Divine forgiveness m Colossians 2:13 (see note). The words, "if any have any complaint," etc., would certainly apply to Philemon as against Onesimus. Even as the Lord (or, Christ) forgave you, so also ye (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24-45.3.26; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Acts 13:38; Acts 5:31; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 9:1-40.9.8; Matthew 18:27; Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7; Psalms 103:3). This argument is latent in the appeal to the "elect" and "beloved" of Philemon 1:12. The evidence for the alternative readings, "Lord" and "Christ," is nearly equal in weight. In any case, the "Lord" is "Christ" in this passage (Colossians 2:6; Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:24): and that he forgave (comp. Colossians 1:20, note) is quite consistent with the assertion that God forgave (Colossians 2:13), for God forgave "in Christ" (Ephesians 4:32). So "God in Christ reconciled" (2 Corinthians 5:19); and yet "Christ reconciled us" (Colossians 1:20, Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16). "Forgiving," supplied in thought from previous context, completes the sense of "so also ye" (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott). To suppose an ellipsis of the imperative, with Light foot and the English Version ("do ye"), is needlessly to break the structure of the sentence. Philemon 1:14 shows that the leading imperative, "put on," of Philemon 1:12 is still in the writer's mind. For the reciprocal double καί ("even.., also"), comp. Colossians 1:6 or Romans 1:13; it is characteristic of the writer.
And over all these things (put on) love, which (thing) is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 2:2; Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:3; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13.; Galatians 5:13-48.5.15, Galatians 5:22; Romans 13:8-45.13.10; 2Pe 1:7; 1 John 4:7-62.4.21; John 13:34, John 13:35). In 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13. "love" is the substance or substratum of the Christian virtues; in Galatians 5:22 it is their head and beginning; here it is that which embraces and completes them. They imply love, but it is more than them all together. They lie within its circumference; wanting it, they fall to pieces and are nothing. (For συνδεσμός ("bond" or "band"), comp. Colossians 2:19.) In Ephesians 4:3 we have the "bond of peace" (see next verse). Love is the bond in the active sense, as that wherewith the constituents of a Christian character or the members of a Church are bound together: peace, in a passive sense, as that wherein the union consists. "Love" (compare "covetousness," Ephesians 4:5) is made conspicuous by the Greek definite article—being that eminent, essential grace of Christian love (Colossians 1:4, Colossians 1:8; Colossians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13.; 1 John 4:16, etc.). "Perfectness" is genitive of object, not of quality: love unifies the elements of Christian goodness and gives them in itself their "perfectness" (Romans 13:10). (For "perfectness," see note on "perfect," Colossians 1:28; and comp. Colossians 4:12.) Against Galatian teachers of circumcision, and Corinthian exalters of knowledge, the apostle had magnified the supremacy of love (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 8:1-46.8.3); and so against the Colossian mysticism and asceticism he sets it forth as the crown of spiritual perfection, the goal of human excellence (comp. Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16).
And let the peace of Christ be umpire in your hearts (Colossians 1:14, Colossians 1:20-51.1.22; Colossians 2:18; Ephesians 2:13-49.2.18; Romans 5:1, Rom 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-47.5.21; Acts 10:36; Hebrews 13:20; Philippians 3:14). "Of God," the reading of the Received Text, is borrowed from Philippians 4:7, where, however, "in Christ Jesus" follows (comp. Philippians 4:13 b, and Ephesians 4:32). "The peace of Christ" is that which he effects in reconciling men to God, and to himself as their Lord (Philippians 4:13 b; Colossians 1:20, see note; Romans 5:1). Here is the source of inner tranquillity and health of soul (see note on "peace," Colossians 1:2; Romans 8:6-45.8.9; John 16:33); and of the outward union and harmony of the Church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:3; Romans 14:15-45.14.19; Romans 15:7). In John 14:27, on the other hand, Christ's peace, his "legacy," is that which he possessed and exemplified—an idea foreign to this context. This "peace" is to "act as umpire" in the Christian's heart. The compound κατα βρα-βεύω ("act as umpire against you") has already been used in Colossians 2:18 (see note; also Philippians 3:14, cognate βραβεῖον) of the false teacher who, in condemning the faith of the Colossian Christians as insufficient for the attaining of "perfectness" (Colossians 2:14) without angel worship, etc., virtually took away their prize and judged them "unworthy of eternal life." The Greek commentators seem, therefore, to be right, as against most moderns (but see Klopper on the other side), in retaining the primary sense of the verb instead of generalizing it into "rule" or the like. It stands in precise antithesis, both of sense and sound, to Colossians 2:18 : "Let not the deceivers decide against you, but let the peace of Christ decide in your hearts" (Cramer's 'Catena'). "The peace of Christ" dwelling within the heart is to be the security of the Colossian believer against the threats of false teachers: "They sock to rob you of your prize; let this assure you of it." Present, conscious peace with God is a warrant of the Christian's hope of everlasting life (Romans 5:1-45.5.11; Romans 8:31-45.8.39; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 1:13, Eph 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 3:7). This assurance is identical with "the witness of the Spirit" (Romans 8:15, Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6, Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14). The apostle argued in Colossians 1:4, Colossians 1:5 from the present faith and love of his readers to "the hope laid up for them in heaven;" here he bids them find in the peace which Christ has brought to their souls the earnest of their future bliss. It is but a generalizing of the same idea when he speaks in Philippians 4:7 of "the peace of God" as "garrisoning the heart and thoughts" against fear and doubt. Unto which also ye were called, in one body (Colossians 1:12, Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:2; Ephesians 4:14-49.4.18, Ephesians 4:1-49.4.6; Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28; 1Co 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 12:5). So this "peace" is to be at once their inward safeguard, and the ground of their outward union. They are to stand together in its defence (Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28). Error, which blights the Church's hope, destroys her unity. So the maintenance of that "one hope of our calling," assured by a Divine peace within the soul, unites all Christian hearts in a common cause (compare the connection of Philippians 4:18 and Philippians 4:19 in Colossians 2:1-51.2.23.). With St. Paul, the peace of God's children with him and with each other is so essentially one that he speaks almost indistinguishably of both (Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:16). He adds, and be ye thankful (Colossians 1:3-51.1.5, Colossians 1:12; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:17; Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 5:20); viz. "for this assurance of your future blessedness afforded by the peace of Christ within your hearts, with its outward evidence in your Christian unity." The apostle gave thanks for them on like grounds (Colossians 1:3-51.1.5 : comp. Colossians 1:12-51.1.14). The command to give thanks prevails in this Epistle, as that to rejoice in Philippians. "Be" is the Greek γίνομαι ("become"); so in Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:17. It implies "striving after an aim as not yet realized" (Meyer: comp. John 15:8)—rather, therefore, "to be in act," "to prove" or "show one's self thankful" (see Grimm's 'Lexicon;' and comp. Romans 3:4; Luke 10:36).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom (Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3; Colossians 4:5, Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Timothy 3:15). The "word of Christ" is the Christian doctrine, the gospel in the widest sense of the term (Colossians 1:5), as proceeding from Christ (Galatians 1:11, Galatians 1:12; Hebrews 2:3; Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 13:3). This precise phrase occurs only here, where the name of Christ is emphasized in so many ways. The apostle, it may be, alludes primarily to the personal teaching of Christ himself (comp. Acts 20:35; 1 Corinthians 7:10). "You" is understood collectively by Meyer and others ("amongst you"); but the verb "dwell in" (Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:14) requires the stronger sense, suggested also by the "in your hearts" of Colossians 3:15 (comp. note on "in you," Colossians 1:27). As "the word" is rich in the Divine wealth stored in it (Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:4,Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Titus 3:6), so it is to dwell "richly" in those who possess it. "In all wisdom" God's grace abounded (Ephesians 1:8), and St. Paul himself taught (Colossians 1:28); so with the richly indwelling word in the minds of the Colossians, especially as they were beset by intellectual forms of error (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2-51.2.4, Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:23 : comp. Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15). In this connection of thought, the phrase appears to belong to the previous sentence; so English Version and Lightfoot. Bengel, Meyer, Alford, and Ellicott, however, attach it to the words which follow. Teaching and admonishing each other [or, yourselves: comp. verse 13, note] (Colossians 1:28; Romans 15:14; Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 10:24, Hebrews 10:25; Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16). What he is doing in his own ministry and by writing this letter, he bids the Colossians do for each other. "Teaching" precedes, being suggested by "wisdom." With psalms, hymns, spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 14:26). These are to be a chief means of mutual edification. The repeated "and," also the singular "heart," and "Lord" in place of "God" in the sequel of the verse, are borrowed by the Received Text from Ephesians 5:19. The Greeks, the Asiatic Greeks in particular, were devoted to the arts of music. Song and jest, stimulated by the wine cup, were the entertainment of their social hours (Ephesians 5:4, Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19). Their Christian intercourse is still to be enlivened by the varied use of song, and by the play of wholesome wit (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29); but both song and speech are to be "in grace," stamped with a spiritual character and governed by a serious Christian purpose. A "psalm" (from ψάλλω, to play an instrument) is "a song set to music;" but this name was already in the LXX appropriated to its present use. Whether its application here is restricted to the psalms of the Old Testament is doubtful. "Hymn" (ὕμνος) denotes a solemn, religions composition, or song of Divine praise. The word "song" (ode, ᾠδή) is wider in sense; hence is qualified by "spiritual," equivalent to "with [or, 'in'] the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)—"songs of a spiritual nature, inspired by the Holy Ghost" (comp. "spiritual wisdom," Colossians 1:9). Such songs would echo the varied sentiments and experiences of the Christian life. In Ephesians 5:14 and 2 Timothy 2:11-55.2.13, very possibly, we have fragments of early Christian song. St. Paul's own language, in more exalted moods, tends to assume a rhythmic and lyrical strain (see introductory note on Colossians 1:15-51.1.20). In grace singing, in your hearts, to God (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 14:2, 1Co 14:15, 1 Corinthians 14:28; Romans 8:27; 1 John 3:19; Revelation 2:23; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9). "The correct reading is ἐν τῇ χάριτι (in the grace);" so Lightfoot, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Herr in margin, rejected by the Revisers. The tendency to omit the article in prepositional phrases should be taken into account in its favour here. And the article helps the sense by giving "grace" a definite Christian meaning (so "the love," 2 Timothy 2:14). Otherwise, ἐν χάριτι may mean no more than "gracefully," "pleasantly;" comp. Colossians 4:6. "The (Divine) grace" is the pervasive element and subject matter of Christian song. Its constant refrain will be, "to the praise of the glory of his grace!" (Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:12, Ephesians 1:14 : comp. Romans 1:5, Romans 1:6). "In your hearts" (Colossians 4:15)—the inner region of the soul—there is the counterpart, audible "to God," of the song that vibrates on the lips. In Ephesians 5:19 we read, "with your hearts"—the instrument (here the region) of the song. (For the connection of "in your hearts" and "to God," comp. Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:23; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8; Rom 8:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 John 3:19.)
And everything, whatever ye he doing in word or deed, (do) all in the name of (the) Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Corinthians 5:4; Ephesians 5:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:17). Colossians 3:16 speaks of "word" only; to it is added the "deed," which stands for all the practical activities of life. Both meet in the following "all." "The name of the Lord Jesus" is the expression of his authority as "Lord" (Colossians 1:13, Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:6; Philippians 2:9-50.2.11; Ephesians 1:21-49.1.23; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 14:9; Acts 10:36), and of his personal character and relation to us as "Jesus" (Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12; Acts 16:31, Revised Text). (On the prominence of the title "Lord" in this Epistle, see note on Colossians 2:6.) (For the emphatic, absolute nominative πᾶν at the head of the sentence, comp. John 6:39; John 15:2; John 17:2; Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:10.) Giving thanks to God (the) Father through him (Colossians 3:15; Colossians 1:12-51.1.14; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 4:2). Again thanksgiving is urged on the Colossians. It is to be the accompaniment of daily talk and work—to be offered to God in his character as "Father" (see notes on Colossians 1:2, Colossians 1:3, Colossians 1:12), and "through the Lord Jesus" (Romans 1:8; Romans 7:25), by whom we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2; Hebrews 10:19-58.10.22) and receive from him all the benefits of redemption (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 2:5-49.2.10; Romans 3:24-45.3.26; Titus 3:4-56.3.7).
Colossians 4:1.—SECTION VIII. THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF FAMILY DUTIES. We note that in each of the three family relations here dealt with, the subordinate party is first addressed, and the duty of submission is primarily insisted upon. So in Ephesians 5:21-49.5.24; Ephesians 6:1-49.6.3, Ephesians 6:5-49.6.8. There may have been some special reason for this in the state of the Asiatic Churches or of Greek society in that region. But other indications show (1Co 7:24; 1 Corinthians 11:3-46.11.16; 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35; Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2Th 3:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:11, 1Ti 2:12; 1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Timothy 6:2; Titus 2:5, Titus 2:9; 10; Titus 3:1) that the apostle perceived and sought to check the danger of unsettlement in the natural order of family and social life which often attends great spiritual revolutions, especially when they are in the direction of religious liberty. As in the case of Luther, the apostle's later teaching is largely directed against the antinomianism which resulted, by way of perversion and abuse, from the preaching of salvation by grace and of the sanctity of the individual believer (comp. introductory note to this chapter). Observe how the Lord and his authority are made to furnish a higher sanction for each of these natural duties.
Ye wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fit in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-49.5.24; 1 Timothy 2:11-54.2.15; Titus 2:5; 1Co 11:3; 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35; 1 Peter 3:1-60.3.6; Genesis 3:16). On this duty the apostle dilates in the Ephesian letter, in illustration of its teaching respecting "Christ and the Church" (comp. the very different treatment of it in 1 Peter 3:1-60.3.7), The use of the article (αἱ γύναικες) in the nominative of address is frequent in New Testament, though not in classical Greek. Lightfoot thinks it Hebraistic. Ανηκεν stands in the imperfect tense (literally, it was fit), denoting a normal propriety (comp. Ephesians 5:4, Westcott and Hort; and for the general expression, 1 Corinthians 11:13, 1 Corinthians 11:14; Philippians 1:8; Eph 5:3; 1 Timothy 2:10; Philippians 4:8; Romans 1:29). Like all men of a sound moral nature, St Paul has a strong sense of natural propriety. The adjunct "in the Lord" belongs to "was fit," not "be subject" (comp. Colossians 3:20). The constitution of nature, as we have learnt in Colossians 1:15-51.1.18, is grounded "in the Lord." In Ephesians 5:22-49.5.33 St. Paul shows that this inherent propriety has a deep spiritual significance; and he makes the subjection of the Church to her heavenly Lord a new reason for wifely submission.
Ye husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Ephesians 5:25-49.5.31; 1 Peter 3:7). "Love" is ἀγαπάω, the word which expresses the highest spiritual affection—"even as Christ loved the Church" (Ephesians 5:25). Here, first and most of all, the "new commandment" of John 13:34 applies. St. Paul only uses the verb πικραίνω ("to make bitter") here, but he has the noun πικρία ("bitterness") in a wider application in Ephesians 4:31. It denotes "exasperation," prompting to hasty severity. Bengel defines it as "odium amori mixtum"—hatred infused into love.
To children, be obedient to your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1, Ephesians 6:2; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Le Deuteronomy 19:3; Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:22; Luke 2:51, Luke 2:52). In Ephesians 6:1, Ephesians 6:2 "in all things" (κατὰ πάντα, "in regard to all things") is wanting; and not the extent, but the intrinsic rightness of the command as it is found in the Decalogue is insisted on. But here, where "Christ is all and in all" (Ephesians 6:11), it is "in the Lord" (Revised Text) that the child's obedience is declared to be "well pleasing." There is something especially pleasing in the behaviour of a lovingly obedient child, that wins "favour" both "with God and man" (Luke 2:52). The law of filial obedience has its creative ground "in him" (Colossians 1:16), and is an essential part of the Christian order of life, which is the natural order restored and perfected. "Well pleasing" is a favourite word of St. Paul's (comp. Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:8; Romans 14:18; Titus 2:9, etc.; used also in Hebrews).
Ye fathers, do not irritate your children, lest they be disheartened (Ephesians 6:4). Ερεθίζω ("irritate" or "provoke") St. Paul uses once besides (2 Corinthians 9:2), in a good sense. It implies a use of parental authority which, by continual exactions and complaints, teaches the child to look on the father as his enemy rather than his friend. The synonymous παροργίζω of Ephesians 6:4, found here in many copies, is, more definitely "to rouse to anger." Αθυμέω (only here in the New Testament) means "to lose heart," to have the confidence and high spirit of youth broken; "fractus animus pestis juventutis" (Bengel). In place of this treatment, "the discipline and admonition of the Lord" are recommended in Ephesians 6:4.
Ye servants (literally, bondmen), be obedient in all things to your lords according to the flesh (Ephesians 6:5-49.6.9; 1 Timothy 6:1,1 Timothy 6:2; Titus 2:9, Titus 2:10; 1 Corinthians 7:21-46.7.24; Romans 13:1, Romans 13:5; 1 Peter 2:18-60.2.25). The duties of servants and masters are prominent here (Colossians 3:22 - Colossians 4:1), in view of the emphasis thrown upon the lordship of Christ; and partly, no doubt, with reference to the case of the runaway slave Onesimus (Colossians 4:9; Epistle to Philemon) "Servant" is δοῦλος, bondman, as in Colossians 1:1 and commonly in St. Paul. In 1 Peter 2:18 we have the milder οἰκετής, domestic. The vast majority of servants of all kinds at this time in the Greek and Roman world were slaves. In most districts the slaves were much more numerous than the free population. And they were undoubtedly numerous in the early Church. The gospel has always been welcome to the poor and oppressed. The attitude of St. Paul and of Christianity towards slavery claims consideration under the Epistle to Philemon; on this point see Lightfoot's 'Introduction.' Here and in Ephesians 6:5 (comp. Ephesians 6:7, Ephesians 6:8) the apostle calls the master κύριος ("lord") in reference to "the Lord Christ" (Ephesians 6:22 b, Ephesians 6:24); elsewhere in the New Testament, as in common Greek, the opposite of δοῦλος is δεσποτής (1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Timothy 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:21, etc.), "According to flesh," that is, "in outward, earthly relationship" (comp. Romans 4:1): Christ is the Lord in the absolute and abiding sense of the word (similarly, "in the flesh" and "in the Lord," Philemon 1:16). Not with acts of eye service (literally, not in eye services), as man pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord (Ephesians 6:6; Eph 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Galatians 1:10; Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34; James 1:5-59.1.8; Psalms 123:2; Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 2:23). "Eye service" is plural here, according to Revised Text; singular in Ephesians 6:6. Here the word ὀφθαλμοδουλεία first oocurs in Greek, like ἐθελοθρησκεία (Colossians 2:23). It strikes at the besetting sin of servants of all kinds. Ανθρωπάρεσκος ("man pleaser") occurs in the LXX, Psalms 52:6. The servant whose aim it is to please his earthly master in what will catch his eye, plays a double part, acting in one way when observed, in another when left to himself; with this duplicity is contrasted "singleness of heart" (comp. Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 11:3; ἀπλότης in 2 Corinthians 8:2 and 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13 has a different application). "Fearing the Lord" more than the eye of his earthly lord, the Christian servant will always act in "singleness of heart;" for "the eyes of the Lord are in every place." In the same manner the apostle ("bondman of Christ Jesus," Colossians 1:1) speaks of his own relations to men and to the Lord Christ respectively (1 Corinthians 4:3-46.4.5; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4-52.2.6, etc.: comp. John 5:37-43.5.44). The reading "God" of Received Text is a copyist's emendation, a sample of a large class of corruptions of the text, where a word more familiar in any given connection is, more or less unconsciously, substituted for the original word.
Whatever ye be doing, work (therein) from (the) soul, as to the Lord, and not to men (Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 6:6, Ephesians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 7:21-46.7.23). (On the first clause, see Colossians 3:17.) In the Revised Text, however, the turn of expression differs from that of Colossians 3:17, πᾶν being cancelled. The writer is thinking, not so much of the variety of service possible, as of the spirit which should pervade it. "Do" is replaced in the second clause by the more energetic "work," opposed to indolent or useless doing (comp. Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; John 5:17; John 9:4). "From [ἐκ, out of] the soul "indicates the spring of their exertions—inward principle, not outward compulsion; the servant must put his soul into his work. "Soul" implies, even more than "heart," the engagement of the man's best individual powers (comp. Philippians 1:27, as well as Ephesians 6:6). The slaves' daily taskwork is to be done, not only in sight and in fear of the Lord (Colossians 3:22 b; Ephesians 5:21), but as actually "to the Lord." Him they are serving (Colossians 3:24 b), who alone is "the Lord" (Colossians 2:6); every mean and hard task is dignified and sweetened by the thought of being done for him, and the commonest work must be done with the zeal and thoroughness that his service demands (comp. Ephesians 6:7, "with good will doing bond service"). The word "not" (ου) instead of μὴ) implies that their service is actually rendered to One other and higher than "men" (1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 1:10).
Knowing that from (the) Lord you will receive the just recompense of the inheritance (Ephesians 6:8; Romans 2:6-45.2.11; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12; Psalms 62:12). "Knowing" (εἰδότες)—that of which one is aware, not merely learning or "getting to know" (γινώσκω): see both words in Ephesians 5:5 and John 14:7, Revised Text; also Romans 6:6 and Rom 6:9; 1 John 5:20. "The absence of the definite article" before Κυρίου "is the more remarkable, because it is studiously inserted in the context" (Lightfoot). St. Paul virtually says, "There is a Master who will recompense you, if your earthly masters never do" (comp. Colossians 4:1). "Just" renders the ἀντὶ in ἀνταπόδοσιν (a word common in LXX), implying "equivalence" or "correspondence" (comp. ἀνταναπληρῶ in Colossians 1:24; also Romans 11:35; Romans 12:19; 1Th 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Luke 6:38; Luke 14:12, Luke 14:14)—a reward in the case of each individual, and in each particular, answering to the service rendered to "the Lord" (comp. Matthew 25:14-40.25.30). The opposite truth is asserted in verse 25; Ephesians 6:8 combines them both. The recompense of the faithful Christian slave is nothing less than "the inheritance" of God's children (Colossians 1:12; Ephesians 1:5,Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 5:5; Romans 8:17; Gal 3:29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 1:4), which the apostle has so often under other terms assured to his readers (Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 3:4, Colossians 3:15). For a slave to be heir was "a paradox" (Lightfoot): see Galatians 4:1,Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:15-45.8.17. No form of praise could be more cheering and ennobling to the despised slave than this. "In Christ," Onesimus is "no longer as a slave, but a brother beloved" (Philippians 1:16), and if a brother, then a joint heir with his master Philemon in the heavenly inheritance (Colossians 3:11). Ye serve the Lord Christ (Philemon 1:22, Philemon 1:25; Colossians 2:6; Ephesians 6:6; Romans 14:8, Rom 14:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1Co 7:22, 1 Corinthians 7:23; John 13:13); that is, Christ is the Lord whose bondmen ye are. "For" is probably a correct gloss, though a corrupt reading. Its insertion indicates that the sentence was read indicatively (Lightfoot, and R.V.); not imperatively ("serve the Lord Christ"), as Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, with the Vulgate, construe it. The verse amounts to this: "Work as for the Lord: he will repay you; you are his servants."
For he that doeth wrong shall receive again that he did wrong; and there is no respect of persons (Ephesians 6:8, Ephesians 6:9; Philippians 1:28; 2Th 1:5-7; 1 Peter 1:17; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6). "For" is replaced by "but" in the same inferior copies which insert it in the last sentence. Here we have the ether side of the recompense promised in Colossians 3:24 a, to which the explanatory "for" points back. The impartial justice which avenges every wrong guarantees the reward of the faithful servant of Christ. So the Old Testament saints rightly argued (Psalms 37:9-19.37.11; Psalms 58:10, Psalms 58:11; Psalms 64:7-19.64.10) that the punishment of the evil doer affords hope to the righteous man. This warning is quite general in its terms, and applies alike to the unfaithful servant and to the unjust master (comp. Ephesians 6:8). At the judgment seat of Christ there will be no favouritism: all ranks and orders of men will stand on precisely the same footing (Colossians 3:11). The word ἀδικέω, twice employed here, denotes a legal wrong or injury (1 Corinthians 6:7, 1 Corinthians 6:8); e.g. the conduct of Onesimus towards Philemon (Philemon 1:18). The verb "receive" (κομίζομαι, carry off, gain; Ephesians 6:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:27) looks more to the receiver, whereas ἀπολήμψεσθε ἀπό (Philemon 1:24) points to the giver. Προσωπολημψία (literally, accepting of the face) is a pure Hebraism, found in St. James twice, and four times in St. Paul.
The apostle turns from the slave to address his master.
Ye lords, show just dealing and fairness to your servants [bondmen] (Ephesians 6:8, Ephesians 6:9; Matthew 18:23-40.18.35; Luke 6:31). The verb "show" (παρέχεσθε, afford, render) is middle in voice, and, as in Luke 7:4 and Titus 2:7, implies spontaneity—"show on your part," "of yourselves." Τὸ δίκαιον ("the just"), a concrete expression, denotes the justice of the master's dealing (comp. τὸ χρηστόν in Romans 2:4, "the kind dealing of God"). Τὴν ἰσότητα gives the principle by which he is to be guided, that of equity, fairness (so Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot). "Equity is the mother of Justice" (Philo, 'On the Creation of Magistrates,' § 14; see other illustrations in Lightfoot). Meyer contends for the stricter sense, "equality" (2 Corinthians 8:13, 2 Corinthians 8:14)—i.e. of Church status and brotherhood (Philippians 1:16; Colossians 3:11). But the context suggests no such special reference; it deals with the family and social relationship of master and servant "Equity" is a well-established sense of the Greek word. The law of equity bearing on all human relations Christ has laid down in Luke 6:31. Here is the germinal principle of the abolition of slavery. Moral equity, as realized by the Christian consciousness, was sure in course of time to bring about legal equality. Knowing that ye also have a Lord in heaven (Colossians 2:6; Eph 6:9; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Philippians 2:11; Romans 14:9; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16). (On "knowing," see Luke 6:24 a.) "Ye also," for Christ is "both their Lord and yours" (Ephesians 6:9, Revised Text). The lordship of Christ dominates the whole Epistle (Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:6, Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:19, etc.). The assertion that the proud master who deemed his fellow man his chattel is himself a mere slave of Christ, sets Christ's authority in a vivid and striking light. This consideration makes the Christian master apprehensive as to his treatment of his dependents. He is "in heaven" (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:9; Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Acts 3:21; John 3:13; John 8:23; Hebrews 9:24), the seat of Divine authority and glory, whence he shall soon return to judgment (comp. Psalms 76:8; Romans 1:18).
Colossians 3:1-51.3.17.—Sect. 7
The true Christian life.
From above only can we be raised. There is no salvation in mere antipathy. Disgust at the vanities of life, repulsion from earthly things, will of itself never lift us beyond them; it needs the superior influence of heavenly things to do that. This the Colossian errorists did not rightly understand; or they could not have made ceremonial purifications and bodily austerities the way of holiness, the means of reaching spiritual perfection. "Touch not, taste not" (Colossians 2:20, Colossians 2:21),—these were their chief commandments. The physical life was their great aversion, and to reduce and harass it was the leading object of their moral endeavours. In the last two sections of his letter (Colossians 2:8-51.2.23) the apostle has denounced their system as false and mischievous, to be rejected by Christian believers, since it is not according to Christ, but is, in spite of its high pretensions, essentially base and earthly. He now proceeds, by way of command and appeal, to delineate the true Christian character, the working of Christian principles of life, as contrasted with the mystico-ceremonial and ascetic ideal of the Gnosticizing teachers. The Christian he describes is one whose "life is Christ"—a life derived from, and animated and governed by, "the Lord from heaven," and not by "the tradition of men and the rudiments of the world"—"the things upon the earth" (comp. John 6:31-43.6.33, John 6:41, John 6:42, John 6:47-43.6.59).
I. THE HIDDEN LIFE. (Colossians 3:1-51.3.4.)
1. The vital spring of a practical Christian life is personal union with Christ. "Ye were raised with Christ; your life is hid with Christ; ye shall be manifested with him; Christ is your life" (Colossians 3:1-51.3.4).
(1) Not only must the principle of a perfect and all-sufficing life for men be heavenly; it must be personal. "We live by admiration, hope, and love." All really commanding and sovereign influences acting on human nature contain a personal element. We cannot sustain ourselves on abstract laws, or great universal ideas, or "streams of tendency;" on a "something not ourselves that makes for" this or that; on formulas or generalizations of any kind, however grand and comprehensive, however true and useful in their place. In spite of all plausible argument and elegant raillery, and underneath the changing modes and fashions of polite or scientific thought, it yet remains a constitutional and fixed necessity of the human soul to find in that which is higher than itself Some One to reverence and to obey. Against this necessity, Alexandrine theosophy and modern scepticism equally contend in vain. Men want a living God, One who knows, who loves and hates, who wills and acts—a just God and a Saviour; and they will not have these terms explained away. We are not to be frightened or discomposed by being told that our God is "a magnified, non-natural Man," and that our notions are grossly "anthropomorphic." We cannot believe that the Power which is infinitely greater than ourselves is less than a Person. "That which may be known of God is" so far "manifest in ourselves" (Romans 1:19), that what we find there of highest and most distinctive—in thought, in will, in affection, in moral self consciousness—must needs be an index, the surest and directest that reason furnishes (for it is given by the very being of reason itself), to the nature of that Power which made and governs us. To this first principle we are compelled to hold, notwithstanding the metaphysical difficulties old as human thought, which surround those indications—difficulties which meet every interpretation of them alike. The Incarnation has confirmed, while it has corrected, this universal assumption. In the mind of Christ, in the love of Christ, in the holy will that says, "Father, I will … nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt", we behold in its purest and most satisfying form that which may be known of God, and the relations in which as men we stand thereto. How much God is beyond and behind all that, we cannot guess; but he is all that, he is nothing less than, nothing different from, that which we see "in the face of Jesus Christ" (Col 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:18).
(2) The man whose "life is hid with Christ" is "joined in one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17)—in a sympathy of love and fellowship of thought and aim the most complete of which the human soul is capable—with a living Person in heaven. He is "joined to the Lord," who has "all authority in heaven and in earth" (Colossians 1:13, Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Romans 14:9; John 17:2; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:5), with the wisdom that touches on the one side the resources of omniscience and on the other the everyday experience of human infirmity and suffering (Colossians 2:3; 1 Corinthians 1:24; John 2:25; John 16:30; Matthew 11:27; Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 2:23), and the claims on our devotion of One who "loved us and gave himself for us" (Colossians 1:14, Colossians 1:20-51.1.22; Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 10:15; John 15:13; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:12). In him we recognize personal being, personal worth, and personal rights in relation to ourselves, the highest conceivable both in kind and degree. To have a life hid with Christ is to dwell in an inward communion of heart with One whom we can perfectly trust, perfectly love, and absolutely obey.
(3) This is life indeed (John 6:53; 1 John 5:12). This fellowship supplies, as nothing else can do in the nature of things, the means of moral culture, the influences by which men may be "redeemed from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14; Galatians 1:4; John 15:3), by which a Divine character is formed in the soul (Galatians 4:19) and it is trained for the life of heaven (Colossians 1:27; Philippians 1:6). The Christian life is nothing less than a Divine friendship (John 15:12-43.15.15; Isaiah 41:8; Exodus 33:11; Genesis 5:24; Genesis 18:17). To gain this life one may gladly consent to die to all that is alien from the life of Christ (Colossians 3:3; Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:20; Philippians 3:7-50.3.12; Romans 6:2, Romans 6:11; Romans 7:4-45.7.6).
2. A true union with Christ lifts our aims above this world. "Ye were raised with Christ, seek, mind, the things above, where Christ is, for (from the things on the earth) ye died" (Colossians 3:1-51.3.3). Christ has gone to heaven, and he is our Life. Thither he has carried with him our desires and hopes (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:6-47.5.8). To be where he is, is the deepest longing of the Christian heart; and its attainment is the supreme reward of faithful service (John 12:26; John 14:1-43.14.6; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 14:4). Heaven is the Christian's home, because he is there. And he has gone thither, not simply as to "the place where he was before" (John 6:62), and to which he properly belongs (John 3:13), but as our "Forerunner" (Hebrews 6:20), the "Firstborn among many brethren" (Colossians 1:18; Romans 8:29). Heaven is the goal which he has marked out for his followers, the "Father's house," the native city of all the members of his body, the Church (Ephesians 1:18-49.1.23; Philippians 3:20; John 14:2; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:13-58.11.16). "The prize of our high calling" (τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως, "that calls us above") is bestowed at "the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:9-50.3.21).
(1) As workmen, as tradesmen, as citizens, our aims terminate with the things upon the earth; as Christians, we seek the things that are above. The present in our view is the seed time, the training school for the immortal future; and its value lies in what it leads to rather than in what it is. Our present spiritual life, the knowledge of Christ and communion with him we now enjoy, is but "the earnest of our inheritance," "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:12-50.3.14). "By" this "hope we are saved" (Romans 8:17-45.8.25); for this, most of all, do we give thanks (Colossians 1:3-51.1.5, Colossians 1:23; Philippians 1:6; 1Co 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:3-60.1.7 comp. homiletics, sect. 1, II. 1 (3).
(2) Yet this minding of the things above involves no disparagement of the interests and claims of secular life. For this present is the pathway to that future. How seriously important, how carefully to be studied and appraised, how diligently to be improved, are the "few things" of our earthly stewardship, if by a right management of them we may become "lords" of the "many things" of the everlasting habitations (Matthew 25:14 Matthew 25:30; Luke 16:9-42.16.12; 1 Corinthians 7:31)! But we must keep our thoughts and aims above the world, taking care not to be overcharged with "cares and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14; Luke 21:34), "declaring plainly that we seek a country" (Hebrews 11:14), turning earth at every step into "a scale to heaven," making Christ all in all in family and social life, in business and in politics.
3. The Christian life is, therefore, in its essence a mystery. "Your life is hid" (1 Peter 1:3).
(1) "The world knoweth us not" (1 John 3:1). As to the life of the children of this world, and of the Christian man so far as he is a man of the world, everything is plain. The principles and motives of the man of business, the politician, or the scientist are easily stated and generally intelligible. And the influences which govern the depraved, ungodly man are all too plain; "the works of the flesh are manifest" (Galatians 5:19). But the man whose "citizenship is in heaven," who "walks by faith, not by sight," who is "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God," whose life it is to love and serve a Master who was crucified eighteen hundred years ago, and whom he expects to see only after he himself is dead,—such a person is an enigma to natural men born only of this world; he is "judged of no man" (1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 2:15). Political economy, experimental psychology with its "analysis of the human mind," fail to account for him; and the philosopher haply will pass him by as a pretence or an abnormity. He is like a planet deflected from its course by some unknown body out of telescopic reach, whose magnitude and position it is impossible scientifically to determine.
(2) Our life is hidden, because he who is our Life is hidden. "Ye see me no more," said Jesus; and again, "The world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also" (John 16:10; John 14:19). "Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (1 John 3:1). Our life is wrapped up in One "whom we have not seen" (1 Peter 1:8, 1 Peter 1:9), with whom we can have no kind of sensible communication; in a Christ who indeed was "manifested in the flesh," but was scornfully disbelieved and put to death, "justified" only "in the Spirit," seen only "of angels" (1 Timothy 3:16). A mystery to the world, the Christian life is a mystery also to its possessor as respects the methods by which it is bestowed and sustained on God's part. "The things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God," and though we receive this Spirit, "we know" but "in part" his operations (1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 13:12). "Thou hearest the voice thereof "—that is all (John 3:8). There is a supernatural something that defies analysis and measurement in the experience of every Christian—a Divine life as distinct from the natural soul life, as that is from mere animal vitality; and this is just the sovereign creative factor of his religion, the principle of his new birth and new manhood: his life is "hid in God." But while this life itself is hidden, its fruits are not (1 Peter 1:5 - Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 5:8-49.5.14; Philippians 2:15,Philippians 2:16; Titus 2:11, Titus 2:12; Matthew 5:14-40.5.16; Joh 13:35; 1 Peter 2:9, 1Pe 2:12, 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:2, 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Peter 3:16).
4. But the mystery of the Christian life is to have its revelation. "When Christ shall be manifested, then shall ye also be manifested with him, in glory" (1 Peter 1:4). This riddle of life must be solved; "the things shaken" must be removed, "that the things unshaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:27); appearance must give place to reality; "mortality" must be "swallowed up of life;" God has "wrought us for this very thing" (2 Corinthians 5:4, 2 Corinthians 5:5). Faith is the virtue of education, and must have its reward in sight; if there is nothing to be seen, then those are not "blessed," but only mistaken, "who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Hope must be crowned with fruition, or it will "put us to shame" (Romans 5:5). And love, content now to "see him not" (1 Peter 1:8), is only so content on the assurance that "we shall see him even as he is" (1 John 3:3; Acts 1:11; John 14:3).
(1) Christ shall be manifested. He has pledged himself, both to his friends and to his foes, to return (John 14:3; Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). That pledge he gave in the most public and solemn manner possible, in assertion of his Divine sonship and Messiahship. His second coming is the goal of New Testament prophecy, and of the Church's hope and longing through the ages (Matthew 25:19, Matthew 25:31; Acts 3:21; Acts 17:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-52.4.18; Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20, etc.). It is the consummation of human history, the denouement of the great time drama, "the one far off Divine event, to which the whole creation moves." But he waits till "the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the nations," "till his enemies be made his footstool," till "the harvest of the earth is ripe," till the hour has struck appointed in the Father's eternal counsels. Then he will appear in that glory (Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:64; Titus 2:13), something of which the three saw "in the holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16-61.1.18), which dying Stephen beheld as he fell asleep, and Saul of Tarsus as he journeyed to Damascus, and John in Patmos (Acts 7:56; Acts 9:3-44.9.6; Revelation 1:13-66.1.18); of which in entering upon his earthly estate he had "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7). "We shall see him even as he is—the Lord of glory" (1 John 3:3; James 2:1).
(2) Christ's glory his saints will share. They, too, will be manifested. There will be an "unveiling of the sons of God" (Romans 8:18-45.8.25). "In this tabernacle we do groan, being burdened" (2 Corinthians 5:4). Our life is "cribbed, cabined, and confined." The body, virtually "dead because of sin," oppresses and conceals, while it contains, the immortal "spirit, which is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10, Romans 8:11). "Now we see through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). We move about as if under a heavy, muffling cloak. "We are spirits in prison, able only to make signals to each other." But we shall then enjoy "the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). This "natural body" will become a "spiritual body," in which the spirit will be perfectly expressed and for ever at home.
(3) Then Christ's glory will be manifest in us. He will be "glorified in his saints," and they glorified in him (2 Thessalonians 1:10; Psalms 90:16, Psalms 90:17). Like some sculptor's work, prepared in concealment and with long labour, carved out of the rough, unshapely block by many a painful stroke of hammer and of chisel, till the artist's glorious ideal is wrought out, and on some public day the finished masterpiece is at last unveiled; so the man, perfect in Christ, will be "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Colossians 1:22, Colossians 1:28; Jud Colossians 1:24).
II. THE DEATH OF THE OLD SELF. (Verses 5-9.) Impurity, greed, malice, falsehood,—these are the leading features of the former life of sin which the apostle represents his readers as having followed before they became Christians. He does not, of course, charge all of them equally and alike with these offences. But then, as now, these four types of vice were prevalent amongst the great mass of ungodly men (verse 7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-46.6.11). Such statements, when applied to men living under the influences of Christian society, must be applied with discrimination, and in the light of our Lord's teaching addressed to the moral Jews in Matthew 5:17-40.5.48, etc. These vices are native to the soil of the human heart (Mark 7:20-41.7.23). By habitual practice they take possession of the man, so that his "members" are made "slaves to uncleanness and iniquity" (Romans 6:19; John 8:34), and his body becomes a "body of sin" and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:23-45.7.25; Colossians 2:11). They become virtually his "members that are upon the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Under the sway of sensual appetite and worldly desire, ungoverned by any influence from "the things above," his person becomes more and more completely an incarnation of sin (Romans 7:5, Romans 7:20, Romans 7:23). These "members," then, individually and collectively, must be "put to death;" this "body of the flesh," as a "body of sin," must be "stripped off" and "done away" (Colossians 2:11; Romans 6:6). Christ cannot dwell in the soul while "sin reigns in the mortal body" (Romans 6:12). He has no "concord with Belial," or with Mammon (2 Corinthians 6:15; Matthew 6:24). "The old man" must be "so buried, that the new man may be raised up" in us (comp. Ephesians 4:17-49.4.24).
1. Unchastity was the most conspicuous sin of the Gentile world in which St. Paul moved. There it prevailed in the grossest and most shameless forms; and its prevalence is a fearful warning, as he points out Romans 1:18-45.1.27), of the outcome of a godless civilization. The society of the populous Greek cities of that day was one in which "fornication, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire" (Romans 1:5), had free course, and its moral condition was only less abandoned than the "reeking rottenness" of Sodom and Gomorrha. Adultery, indeed, was condemned as a civil crime by pagan moralists; but fornication they held, as a rule, to be an innocent and almost a necessary thing. It was in writing to Corinth, perhaps the most licentious city in that licentious age, that the apostle launched his sternest and most vehement interdict against this crime, which is a moral leprosy and pestilence. There he marks it out as peculiar from all other sins in being a sin against a man's own body, and an especial insult and outrage to the Holy Spirit who claims the human body for his temple. There are too many evidences in the state of modern society, both in high quarters and in low, that as Christian sentiment grows weak and religious faith dies down, in the same proportion the perversion of the sexual passions follows, with its invariable result in the relaxation of moral fibre, the destruction of social confidence, and the physical decay of the corrupted race. Man begins by denying his Maker, and ends by degrading himself. There are times and places where plain speaking on this subject is needful, and no prudery or sentimental delicacy should prevent it. The tempted must be warned; the guilty rebuked; bodily self respect must be taught in good time. The pure will know how to do this, like the apostle himself and like his Master, "in all purity." When once inward chastity has been lost and uncleanness spots the sou], the stain is not easily effaced. Evils of this kind flourish in the dark and love to be ignored.
2. Covetousness is idolatry. (Romans 1:5.) It is, obviously and directly, "worshipping and serving the creature" (Romans 1:25). While it appeases to be self love, it is really the sacrifice of self to the world, offered at the shrine of wealth, or fame, or pleasure. The man seeks to gain power over other men or things; but if this becomes his supreme desire, or if he seeks to attain it by evil means, then from that moment the object of his guilty pursuit gains power over him, and begins to entangle and enslave him (John 8:34; Romans 7:23). His passion becomes his tyrant, his ambition an insanity, his pursuit of pleasure an infatuation. Even the thirst for knowledge, the noblest of natural desires, may grow into a selfish greed, jealous and grasping, eating out the best affections, and producing an accomplished scholar, a master of science, void of all goodness of heart and human worth. All creaturely things, regarded out of God, are but "passing shows" (εἴδωλα, idols) of the absolute and enduring goodness that belongs to him (Matthew 19:17). The homage rendered to them—whether by the savage to his fetish, by the civilized worldling to his wealth or rank, or by the scientist to his laws and forces of nature—is idolatry, the worshipping of shams and shows, in so far as it is a departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12; Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4-46.8.6). And with life thus perverted at its fountainhead, it becomes a mere vanity and vexation of spirit.
3. Malice is universally denounced. Moralists of all schools and all ages agree in proscribing this vice, though in little else. The malicious man is instinctively dreaded; he is a peril to every one. Sins of malice and of falsehood strike directly at the existence of society, while the two former classes of offence threaten it more gradually and indirectly.
(1) Yet it can scarcely be denied that anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking, are, to a large extent, congenital to human nature. It is true that there is an instinctive benevolence, a fellow feeling for one's kind, only exceptionally wanting; but at the same time there exists a proclivity, that is often terribly strong even in its earliest manifestations, in the opposite direction. "Cain was of that wicked one, and slew his brother;… because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12). It is a weak and fatal delusion to rely on natural benevolence as an effective and commanding moral force, a stable foundation for a system of practical ethics. Nor is it possible in the nature of things that enlightened self interest or any combination of prudential or utilitarian considerations should ever teach men to love their neighbours as themselves, or should succeed in suppressing rage and jealousy and the murderous passions slumbering in the blood of the race. We must be "taught of God to love one another" (1 Thessalonians 4:9; see 1 John 2:7-62.2.11; 1 John 3:13-62.3.24; 1 John 4:7-62.4.21).
(2) The love of Christ will at last subdue the fratricidal passions of mankind, will "make wars to cease unto the ends of the earth;" and one day will bring men of the most distant climes and hostile interests to clasp each other's hands and look into each other's eyes and say, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another!" Here lies the only hope of the fraternization of mankind.
4. If impurity dishonours the body, falsehood dishonours the mind. This sin at once degrades the man, wrongs by deceiving his fellow, and insults his God, the ever present Witness and Guardian of truth (Acts 5:4; Romans 9:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; Psalms 139:4; Jeremiah 5:3). Here the apostle points out
(1) its inconsistency with the Christian character of the man (Romans 1:9, Romans 1:10); and
(2) its contradiction to the Christian view of society (Romans 1:11). Similarly in Ephesians 4:25 : "For we are members one of another." For a man to deceive his neighbour by word or deed, is as if the eyes should conspire to trick the ear or misguide the hand. The ancients condemned falsehood between men of the same community, but generally regarded it as a lawful weapon to use against enemies or strangers; although the Stoics, with their wider views of humanity, taught on this point, as on others, a higher morality. The "Greek" might deceive the "barbarian," the "bondman" might lie to his master, and have no sense of moral wrong. And so it has been too commonly in the dealing of servants or schoolboys with their masters, of civilized men with savages, of libertines in their conduct towards the other sex. Witness the immoral maxim, "All's fair in love and war." One chief cause of deceit would be removed if men would understand that the instinct of honour which bids them be truthful to their equals and comrades, requires the same honesty in dealing with every man as man. The Christian acts on this principle; he will not in any sense "hold the faith of our Lord Jesus with respect of persons" (James 2:1).
(a) Many men who would resist the temptation to utter a lie in so many words, will silently act it; especially in a continued course of action, where the deception lies not in any single definite act, but in the general construction which they lead others to put on their proceedings. Such deception is no less culpable in itself, and as a rule still more disastrous in its effects, than a palpable lie.
(b) And again, men find it easy to lie collectively who would not do so singly. Though men of probity in their private affairs, they will put their hands to documents, they will consent with others to acts, which they know to be misleading, or, at least, which they do not know to be true. And now that business is becoming more and more a matter of "limited liability," the perils of divided responsibility in this direction should be well understood.
5. "Because of all these things God's anger is coming on the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 4:6). Every act or thought of any of these kinds is a disobedience, a breach of "the holy and just and good Law" under which man was first created in his Maker's image (Ephesians 4:10). This "Law worketh out wrath," inexorably and perpetually, against "every soul of man that doeth evil" (Romans 2:9; Romans 4:15). And that anger of God is coming (Isaiah 30:27, Isaiah 30:28). There is a day appointed for its "revelation'' (Romans 2:5, Romans 2:16; Ma Romans 4:1), even as for "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Ephesians 4:4; Romans 8:19). It is already "revealed from heaven" (Romans 1:18), and gives forewarning of its advent in many a personal and public calamity (Isaiah 26:9; Ma Isaiah 3:5; Mat 24:3-42; 1 Corinthians 5:3-46.5.5; 1 Corinthians 11:30-46.11.32). On every account, the Christian must have done with the old life of sin. He sees it to be incompatible with fellowship with Christ, to be hateful to God, to be ruinous to himself and to his fellow men. No return to it, no renewal of it, no dallying or temporizing with it in any kind or degree, can be tolerated. It must die if he is to live.
III. THE UNITY OF MANKIND IN CHRIST. (Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:11.) This truth belonged, at least in St. Paul's time, to the more advanced Christian knowledge, "unto which" the believer was "being renewed" (Ephesians 4:10); and the Church still comes far short of its full apprehension.
1. The gospel of Christ reveals the spiritual unity of mankind. To make this known was a part of the apostle's mission, and of the special "mystery God" entrusted to him (Colossians 1:25-51.1.28; Ephesians 3:1-49.3.6; Romans 3:9-45.3.30; Romans 15:5-45.15.12). Its manifestation, and the consequent "breaking down of the middle wall of partition" (Ephesians 2:14), were necessary to a complete Christian virtue, the proper virtue of man as man, carried out in all his relations to God and to his fellows; and for the regeneration of human society, the salvation of the world. There was a preparation for this belief in the breaking down of the old nations into the unity of the Roman empire, in the decay of local and ancestral religions, and in the advance of philosophy from the narrower and more political ethics of Plato and Aristotle to the moral system of the Stoics, which was at once more inward and more humane. But there was wanting that conception of a living, Divine centre of the human race, given in Christ, which alone could make the sentiment of universal humanity a creative, organic force.
2. This unity has been realized in the Christian Church. It appears in the beautiful simplicity of its childlike beginning, in the communism of the infant Church of Jerusalem (Acts 2:44 Acts 2:47). It was set forth in a larger and fuller way by the Apostle Paul in addressing the mixed Churches of the great cities where he laboured; and was actually put into practice there in a good degree. Jew and Greek (Galatians 2:12), rich and poor (1 Corinthians 11:20-46.11.22; the exception proves the rule: comp. James 2:1-59.2.4), master and slave (Philemon 1:16, Philemon 1:17), met at the same table of the Lord, mingled as equals in the same Christian society, distinguished only by the measure of "grace" and "spiritual gifts" bestowed on each (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:7-46.12.11). And the records of the first three Christian centuries show how faithfully, on the whole, this principle was maintained, and how nobly the Church held herself superior to temporal distinctions of wealth and rank. Far indeed has she subsequently departed from this rule; and lost how much thereby in spiritual dignity and power! We admire it now as a proof of special humility if the titled or cultured man forgets amongst Christian brethren his worldly eminence; if the employer of labour is glad to sit at the feet of his workman, when that workman, as may often be the case, is his spiritual superior; if the wealthy contributor to a Church fund does not expect, on that account, to dictate in its management.
3. The Church is destined to gather mankind into a spiritual common, wealth. In it there is to be no "strife as to who shall be greatest;" but in humility and self forgetfulness "the greater shall be as the younger, and the chief as he that doth serve" (Luke 22:24-42.22.26). There "all are brethren, with one Master even Christ" (Matthew 23:1-40.23.39. Matthew 23:8-40.23.12). All authority and office are derived from him, and attested by his Spirit in his people (1 Corinthians 12:1-46.12.11; Acts 1:24; Acts 13:1-44.13.52. I 4; Galatians 1:1; John 20:21). The Church is his body, complete in him—a unity in itself and in its action, because in every limb it draws its life and gets its direction from the Head. And as the Church becomes a greater and more pervasive power in the world, the spiritual brotherhood it creates will work appeasingly on the "wars and fightings," on the aristocratic exclusiveness and haughtiness, the democratic bitterness and jealousy, the invincible prejudices, the clashing interests, by which society is distracted and its bonds are strained almost to rending, and the nations are kept in arms and hurled repeatedly against each other in deadly conflict. When mankind recovers its unity in him in whom it was created and redeemed, when it is reconciled to God and bows its every knee "at the name of Jesus,"—then at last there will be "peace on earth." Where "Christ is all and in all" antipathy must cease.
IV. THE NEW CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. (Ephesians 4:12-49.4.17.) We have traced the principle of the Christian life in its inner ground and aim, as "hid with Christ" and seeking its home in heaven (Ephesians 4:1-49.4.4); in its uncompromising and mortal warfare with the old life of sin (Ephesians 4:5-49.4.9); in its purpose to form a new humanity in the individual soul, and in the world at large (Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:11). We are now to follow its practical working, to see how the "new man" is to show himself in a new habit and style of living, how the "hidden life" is to blossom out into its fragrance and beauty, and its "celestial fruit" to "grow on earthly ground." We note that the Christian character is one derived from God and that refers to God in everything. It is as "God's elect, his holy and beloved ones' (Ephesians 4:12), that we are called to assume the new habits of Christian grace and goodness. Knowing what the Divine Father is, and what he has done for us (Colossians 1:12-51.1.14), and what he intends us to be (Ephesians 1:4-49.1.6), sensible of our filial relation to him (Romans 8:15-45.8.17; Galatians 4:1-48.4.7; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2), loyally embracing his will (Romans 6:22) and seeking to be conformed to his nature as that is translated for us into "the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 4:17), we shall be "holy in all manner of conversation." But God is known to us through Christ. And, therefore, in the formation of the Christian character "Christ is all and in all" (Eph 4:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Romans 15:3; Php 2:5; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 2:6; John 13:15). It is nothing else than Christ formed in us (Galatians 4:19). In the perfect Christian character, then:
1. Christ's love rules. (Ephesians 4:13, Ephesians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 3:23; John 13:34.) The tender heart of compassion, the gentle, sympathetic kindliness, the lowliness of mind, the uncomplaining meekness, the patient long-suffering, the forbearance and forgivingness (Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 4:13) of the Christian nature,—these centre in the all-perfect and all-perfecting grace of Christ-like love (1Co 13:1-13.; 1 John 4:7-62.4.21; Romans 13:9, Romans 13:10). He in whose heart dwells the love of Christ cannot "shut up his compassion" from any within reach of help who need it (1 John 3:17); cannot be rude and ungracious, or hard and unforgiving (Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32; 2 Corinthians 2:5-47.2.11); cannot be self-asserting, clamorous, overbearing; cannot be passionate and resentful, irritable and fault finding, obstinate in prejudice, intolerant of opposition. The love of Christ will assimilate his whole disposition and make it sweet, gracious, unselfish, loving, and lovable as that of an innocent child (Matthew 18:1-40.18.4). And the Christian man who in the spirit of this love can "possess his soul in patience" through all the strenuous endeavours and painful collisions and vexing wrongs of life, wears "the girdle of perfectness," and has attained the perfect Christian temper.
2. Christ's peace guards. (Ephesians 4:15.) The Christian's faith and hope are assailed by a thousand enemies. Sometimes amid the common incidents of life, sometimes in "the heavenly places" of his richest experience and most exalted communion with spiritual things (Ephesians 6:12)—sometimes brought about by open and palpable causes, sometimes by strange influences shadowing the inner life and coming we know not whence or how—sometimes through the ruggedness and gloom of his providential rule, sometimes through mental perplexities and the chilling and confused intellectual atmosphere around him,—in any or in all of these ways "the trial of his faith" comes—comes, in one shape or other, to every man who has a faith worth trial. And then, whatever be the form which the assault takes or the quarter from which it is directed, he may find in "the peace of Christ" his strong tower of defence and harbour of refuge. His difficulties may not disappear under this influence; his doubts may not be at once dispelled; the conflict may still rage furiously around and within him; but he will be kept, the fortress of his heart will not be surrendered (1 Peter 1:5; Philippians 4:7). So long as "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," and "his love is shed abroad in our hearts" (Romans 5:1-45.5.5), nothing can shake our essential faith or rob us of our immortal hope (Psalms 27:1-19.27.14.; Psalms 46:0.; Luke 12:32; Revelation 1:17), Neither sophistry (Colossians 2:4) nor threatening (Colossians 2:18) will take from us "the prize of our high calling." "One thing," at any rate, "we know" (John 9:25); and to it "we have the witness in ourselves" (1 John 5:10), in "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding," "to which we were called," in the "new heart and right spirit" he has "put within" us, in the moral victory attained over self and the world (1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:5): "we know that we have passed from death unto life" (1 John 3:14). And we safely infer that he "who has begun a good work in us" will carry it through (Philippians 1:6); that he will keep that which we commit to him, and "none shall pluck us out of his hand" (2 Timothy 1:12; John 10:27-43.10.29; Romans 8:31-45.8.39). So, unitedly and thankfully, we "hold fast the beginning of our confidence, and the glorying of our hope, firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14).
3. Christ's word inspires. (Ephesians 4:16.) It is to "dwell in the heart richly"—to be the welcome visitant and constant inhabitant of the mind; to be listened to and diligently learned; to be cherished and pondered in inward meditation, not as an object of theoretic study only, but as the power which is to shape the character and guide the life of the Christian (Deuteronomy 6:6-5.6.9; Psalms 119:105; John 17:17), as the soul's daily nutriment—the bread of God, "which strengtheneth man's heart," "the word of eternal life" (Deuteronomy 8:3; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:4; John 6:63, John 6:68),
(1) This word gives all wisdom—best of God's gifts to man, which instructs the mind and prompts the tongue and guides the action of its possessor (Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3; Colossians 4:5, Colossians 4:6). So furnished, every Christian (Colossians 1:28) is able to minister something to his fellows of that which God has taught him by his own study of the Word and its practice in his experience of life (Matthew 13:52; Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 14:31). Thus the members of the Church are able, "in the meekness of wisdom," to "teach and admonish one another," "being knit together in love, and led into all the riches of the full assurance of the understanding, into the knowledge of the mystery of God" (Colossians 2:2).
(2) And it stirs in the heart an ardour of holy feeling that finds expression in Christian song. "The word of Christ," cherished in thought, kindles the emotions and wakens all the music of the soul. The early Christians were a singing people, for they were a cheerful and thankful people. And subsequent revivals of religious life, as a rule, have been attended with fresh outbursts of sacred song (Psalms 40:3). The singing of a people—its heartiness, and simplicity, and the care and pains taken in its cultivation, are a good test of their spiritual state. "Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs"—hymns old and new, narrative, didactic, lyrical; in every measure and every tone of expression—songs of praise, of confession, of wailing sorrow, of ecstatic joy; for the congregation, the household, or the private chamber;—all find a place in the diapason of the Church's music.
4. Christ's name hallows everything. (Verse 17.) Our eating and drinking—acts which seem the most ordinary and purely physical, and quite remote from the interests and sentiments of the spiritual life—these are to be "sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:5), by the mention of Christ's name in thanksgiving to the Father, who through him sends us all life's blessings. And if our mere animal necessities of life are capable of being thus hallowed, there is nothing in family relations, or secular employments, or social or civil duties, which may not receive and does not demand the same consecration. We may associate Christ with everything we do, doing all as his servants and under his eye, and in such a way that, by every part of our work, he may be glorified in us. And this will be a safeguard to the Christian man. If he is to do everything in Christ's name, he must do nothing unworthy of that name, nothing with which he cannot associate it. Nowhere, in any company or on any business, must he forget, "either in word or deed," that this "worthy name" is the name which he bears, and whose honour is in his keeping. This is the seal that marks the true Church of Christ, which every Christian wears upon his heart: "Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness" (2 Timothy 2:19).
Verse 18—Colossians 4:1—Sect. 8
The Christian view of family duties.
Certain general considerations bearing on the family and social constitution of life may be drawn from the teaching of this section.
1. We note that the apostle brings each of the three primary relationships of which he speaks into connection with "the Lord." The natural order of human life is grounded in Christ. If "all things were created and do consist in him" (Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:17), then, amongst the rest, this also and in chief. For man in his relation to the world around him is "the image of God," even as Christ is to the whole universe (1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9; Genesis 1:26; Psalms 8:1-19.8.9.). And man is not a solitary individual; he is a social being, a race unity. And those relations which are essential and fundamental to human society—marriage, sonship, service—have, most of all, their spiritual type and creative ground in Christ. This is obvious in the case of the two latter relations; as to the first, see Ephesians 5:22-49.5.32.
2. The intrinsic fitness of a right discharge of natural duties is affirmed in the first case (Ephesians 5:18), and implied in the other two. The apostle recognizes and appeals more than once to the sense of ethical propriety, that which "nature itself teaches" (1 Corinthians 11:14), which belongs to the universal conscience surviving in our nature though fallen and debased. All true sentiments of natural morality the Christian revelation reaffirms and supports with its effectual sanctions, "as is fit in the Lord" (comp. Philippians 4:8). Their consciousness of the right as the beautiful (τὸ καλόν) was a sound and valuable element in the teaching of the best Greek moralists. They regarded conduct as a work of art, in which grace and fitness were to be studied, and the perfection of an ideal beauty to be the aim of life. While men may have, as a rule, a stronger sense of the right, women better understand the fitting; and it is in regard to the place and duties of woman that St. Paul appeals to convictions of moral fitness and decorum.
3. We are taught, indirectly, to cherish a pleasant and cheerful temper in domestic life. Bitterness (Ephesians 5:19) and harshness, with the distrust and timidity which they engender (Ephesians 5:21), and a sullen or constrained obedience (Ephesians 5:23), are forbidden; and these are the common elements of domestic unhappiness. Where the husband is gentle, and the father tender though strict, and the master considerate, and the servants willing and honestly anxious to please, there all goes well. Whatever storms may beat upon that house from without, there is peace and sunshine within. And this is "well pleasing in the Lord."
4. The principle of authority is steadfastly maintained throughout. (Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 5:22.) In every house that is not to be "divided against itself," there must be a single head, a ruling will, a definite centre of power and direction. And that power God has placed, as a solemn trust, in the hands of the husband, father, master, who is in his prerogative within his own house an image of Christ in the Church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 4:1), of God himself, the Father of men (Hebrews 12:9). This principle is the corner-stone of order in human society. Here is "pure religion breathing household laws" (Wordsworth).
I. HUSBAND AND WIFE. (Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19.) The marriage relation stands first, being the basis of the family, which again is the basis of society and of the community of mankind. "He which made them from the beginning, made them male and female" (Matthew 19:4-40.19.6). Marriage is to be "had in honour among all" (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Timothy 4:1-54.4.3); and not merely the criminal act, but any impure word, thought, or look which offends against its sanctity, "defiles the man" from whom it proceeds, offends in an especial way the Holy Spirit of God, and brings down his wrath upon the offender. The degree of honour and reverence in which it is held in any society largely, determines the degree of soundness in its moral condition. Where the opposite vices prevail, whether secretly or openly practised, general moral corruption and decay set in (see homiletics, sect, 7, II. 1).
1. On the one side, there is to be submission. The apostle says, "Children,… servants, obey" (Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 5:22); but not "Wives, obey your husbands:" "Be in subjection" (Ephesians 5:18) is a gentler and fitter term to use. Obedience implies a certain distance and inferiority that has no place here. There is something wrong on one side, or on both, when the husband gives formal orders to his wife. There should be such an intimacy of mutual understanding and sympathy between them, that they seem to have but one mind and will in all common matters, And while to that single mind the wife contributes the queenly influence of her insight and persuasion, she will feel and show that resolve and direction belong to him and not to her. The final responsibility for the business of the house devolves on the husband, by the ordinance of God and by the nature of things, which are but two expressions of the same fact (1 Corinthians 11:3-46.11.15). It is his part to "rule well his own house" (1 Timothy 3:4).
2. It was not so needful to say, "Wives, love your husbands;" though the apostle once enjoins this, in speaking of "the younger women" in Titus 2:4. For failure on the wife's side in this respect is comparatively rare. But the man, full of business, often absent, and with his more exacting nature, is more liable to fall into some disloyalty. He allows other company to become more agreeable to him; seeks amusements and pursuits in which his wife cannot join; no longer makes her his confidante and the sharer of his inner life; and allows home to become little more to him than a selfish convenience. And with this selfishness and the uneasiness of conscience that attends it, there supervenes often an irritableness of temper that chafes over every domestic care or trouble, and makes no allowance for infirmities in others; that magnifies every trifling mistake or mishap into an injury, and ignores the wife's patient affection and eagerness to please. How different is all this from the exalted ideal that St. Paul holds up to the Christian husband!—"Love your wife even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25). Bengel's shrewd and caustic remark on this passage is too often verified: "There are many, who out of doors are civil and kind to all; when at home, towards their wives and children whom they have no need to fear, they freely practise secret bitterness."
II. FATHER AND CHILD. (Verses 20, 21,)
1. From children, obedience to their parents in all things is required, and therefore in many things contrary to their inclination and opinions. Childhood means dependence and ignorance. It is only under the shelter of parental oversight that the incipient faculties and plastic nature of the child can be formed to the strength of judgment and firmness of character which will enable him to meet the tasks and the perils of adult life. And for this discipline to be effective, the submission of the child must be absolute. Only when a parental command plainly contradicts the Law of God and violates the child's conscience, can any kind of disobedience be justified. In that case, obedience cannot be "well pleasing in the Lord." But even the worst of parents will rarely be found to have so little respect for the conscience of childhood as to enforce such an injunction. The requirement addressed to the child presumes that the parent exacts obedience. This is his inalienable prerogative. Instant, unmurmuring obedience should be made the habit of the child's life, and as a law of nature to it. To have this understood from the first is the simplest and easiest course. If the child be allowed, through passion or persistence, once successfully to rebel, a mischief is done not easily to be repaired. His own self mastery, and the sense of law and of duty which are to attend him through the whole of life, largely rest on this basis of ingrained obedience. For this purpose, children should be in their earliest years as much as possible under the direct influence of their parents' presence and authority. The parental office cannot be discharged by proxy. And there must be unity of parental administration, as well as harmony between precept and practice, if a true and reverent obedience is to be possible. In no State was the authority of the father (patria potestas) so strict and absolute as in ancient Rome. And there can be little doubt that this stern maintenance of family discipline largely helped to form the Roman character with its extraordinary vigour and tenacity, and to preserve that rigid, firmly knit order and devoted loyalty which were the secret of Rome's invincible strength.
2. On the other hand, the father must beware lest his authority should wear a needless aspect of severity. His righteous desire to "command his children and his household after him" (Genesis 18:19), and his anxious sense of responsibility, may occasion this, if not relieved by more genial influences. The innocent liveliness and the many unintended offences of childhood must not provoke him to ill temper. He must learn by patience and tenderness to win the child's affection and open-hearted trust, without impairing its submissive reverence. A mechanical, unsympathetic strictness, or an angry and unequal discipline, will fatally alienate the sensitive heart of the child, which in that case either sinks down into a dull, spiritless apathy, or prepares for a passionate revolt when the hour of its strength shall come. Too often those most anxious to commend religion to their children have made it odious by presenting it in forms unintelligible to the young mind, and associating it with tasks unsuited to its powers, and burdens that it found "grievous to be borne." As the child should find in the child Jesus its pattern and model (Luke 2:40-42.2.52), so the parent should seek to be to his children an image of "our Father in heaven."
III. MASTER AND SERVANT. (Verse 22—Colossians 4:1.) This third relationship is one which we may be sure will continue to exist, however varied the forms it may take, so long as the world stands. And what the apostle says here is of universal application, though slavery has happily given place to free service. Even when our lower classes shall have become so far raised in intelligence and independence that cooperation in industrial labour will become the rule instead of the exception, still there must be some to command, others to obey. Indeed, the more extended and complicated the operations of trade and manufacture become, the more thoroughly labour needs to be organized and authority graduated, and the more entirely success depends on management and discipline and on a right adjustment of the relations of master and servant.
1. From servants Christianity demands, what conscience demands, an honest obedience, that serves as well behind the master's back as to his face (verse 22). As a mere matter of commercial advantage, the uniform presence of this quality would be an incalculable economy and enrichment of the community. And religion secures this, directly and of necessity. The man who does his work in God's sight—"as ever in his great Taskmaster's eye"—and as for the judgment day, cannot scamp any part of it. He is serving, not a man like himself, but a heavenly Lord, whose searching eye is always upon him, who understands and can judge every man's work (verse 24; 1 Peter 1:17), and who has promised infinite rewards for faithfulness in the "few things" of our earthly probation (Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23). These convictions form the best guarantee, with the mass of men the only sufficient and effectual guarantee, for good work and thorough workmanship in every department of life.
"A servant with this clause,
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine."
2. And the Christian master, whether at the head of a farm or a factory, of a commercial house or a private family, will remember that he has his duties along with his rights as a master. He is dealing with human beings, not with machines. The laws of political economy are not to be his only guide. "The nexus of cash payments" can never be the sole link that associates any two men together. Woe be to him if he says, with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9). "Just dealing and fairness" (Colossians 4:1) must rule in the relations of master and man, if they are to be on a moral and righteous footing. He will not take a hard advantage of his servant's necessity; or allow, if he can help it, his dealings with him to degenerate into a mere struggle between capital and labour for every inch of vantage. The cruel greed that grasps at immediate gain at whatever cost of toil and poverty to others, and that "grinds the faces of the poor" (Isaiah 3:15), may enrich the individual, but in the long run is fatal to the class or the trade which practises it. And the rich oppressor will have to appear at a tribunal where "there is no respect of persons" (verse 25). Political economy itself teaches that ill-paid labour is the most expensive and wasteful. The man who has want and fear gnawing at his heart cannot be a good workman, even if, in spite of extreme temptation, he be an honest one. Injustice and over reaching on the part of the rich and governing classes, political and social institutions that favour "the fat and the strong" at the expense of the weak and poor (Ezekiel 34:16-26.34.27), are sure of God's heavy judgment. They generate in the hatred excited in those subject to them an explosive force which, with a suitable train of circumstances, will burst forth, as in the French Revolution, in some volcanic upheaval that the strongest social fabric will be unable to resist. Christ's golden rule of equity (Luke 6:31) is the only safe, as it is the only righteous, basis for the dealings of man with man, of class with class, or of nation with nation in the world's great polity.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY.
The obligations of the risen life.
We have here a transition to the practical part of this Epistle. "If ye then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God."
I. OUR RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST. We are not only "dead with Christ," but "risen with him;" "not only planted in the likeness of his death, but planted together in the likeness of his resurrection;" "that we may walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:2-45.6.4). This translation has altered our standpoint. We are "quickened together with Christ, and raised together with him" (Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:6). We have now an entirely new sphere of intellectual conception and moral aspiration. "Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
II. THE PRACTICAL DUTY INVOLVED IN THIS RESURRECTION. "Seek those things which are above."
1. "The things above" are all things pertaining to our true home—"the new Jerusalem" and "the heavenly citizenship," in contrast to "the things upon the earth." They include
(1) the vision of Christ (John 17:24);
(2) the enjoyment of God, which is promoted
(a) by our fuller knowledge of him (John 17:3),
(b) by our growing love to him (1 John 4:16), and
(c) by the manifold expressions of his love to us (Zephaniah 3:17);
(3) the society of angels and saints.
2. The excellence of "the things above." They are
(1) satisfying, as things on earth are unsatisfying;
(2) certain, as things on earth are uncertain;
(3) perpetual and everlasting, as things on earth are transient and decaying;
(4) suitable, as things on earth are unsuitable to an immortal spirit.
3. They are to be sought, implying
(1) our knowledge of them;
(2) our longing for them;
(3) our anxious effort to realize them (Matthew 6:33).
III. AN ARGUMENT TO INCITE AND ENCOURAGE US TO THIS DUTY. "Where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God." There are two facts here stated.
1. Christ our Head is in heaven. Therefore heaven must be the objective point of our thoughts as well as our hopes. We look up because he, who is our Hope, is there—"within the vail." The thought of Christ's presence gives definiteness to our ideas of heaven. "Where our treasure is, there will be our heart also."
2. Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. This implies:
(1) His intercessory work; for he has entered into "heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1).
(2) His mediatorial dominion and power (Philippians 2:10).
(3) Our sitting with him—"he raised us up and made us to sit in heavenly places in Jesus Christ." These places are those he premised to prepare for his people (John 14:2). "He that overcometh, to him will I give to sit with me in my throne" (Revelation 3:21).—T. C.
Colossians 3:2, Colossians 3:3
Heavenly things the true object of Christian contemplation.
"Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth; for ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." We must not only seek things above, but think them.
I. THE OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATION.
1. Not things upon the earth, because
(1) they are below us (Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:19);
(2) unsatisfying (Luke 8:18; Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:5; Hosea 13:13; Psalms 78:39);
(3) full of anxieties (Matthew 13:22; Job 38:22);
(4) unnecessary to our happiness (Job 28:14);
(5) transient and uncertain (Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:5; Luke 12:19, Luke 12:20).
2. "Things there are above." (See hints on previous verse.) We ought to set our mind upon them, because
(1) they are satisfying;
(3) because our treasure is there—of riches (Matthew 6:19-40.6.21), of honours (1 Samuel 2:30), of pleasures (Psalms 16:11).
II. THE DUTY OF SETTING THE MIND UPON RIGHT OBJECTS OF THOUGHT AND AFFECTION. This is the secret of heavenly mindedness. "Tell me what a man thinks, and! will tell you what he is."
1. It is our duty not to set our mind on things on the earth, because
(1) God may give them to you as your entire portion (Psalms 17:14);
(2) you may provoke him to take them away (Psalms 78:5-19.78.7);
(3) they will turn away your thoughts from heaven (Psalms 10:3, Psalms 10:4);
(4) they will distract you in duty (Ezekiel 33:31);
(5) they involve the guilt of idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
2. It is our duty to set our mind on things above, because
(1) there is nothing else worth our serious thought (1 John 2:15);
(2) they will keep you from over anxiety about the affairs of this life (Philippians 4:11, Philippians 4:12);
(3) the thought of them will increase your fitness for duty (Acts 20:24);
(4) they will make the thought of death more pleasant in anticipation (Philippians 1:23).
III. THE REASON FOR OUR SELECTING SUCH OBJECTS OF BELIEVING CONTEMPLATION. "For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." The thought is twofold—it refers to a past act and to a continuous state.
1. Our death in Christ. This involves
(1) our death to sin (Romans 6:2) and
(2) our death to the world (Galatians 6:14). We are, therefore, cut loose from "things on the earth."
2. Our hidden life in God. "Your life is hid with Christ in God."
(1) Christian life is a hidden life,
(a) in its origin (John 3:8);
(b) it is hid, as an experience, from the world;
(c) it is hid from the believer himself in times of spiritual desertion;
(d) the full glory of this life is hidden even from the believer (1 John 3:1).
(2) Christian life has its hidden source and abiding strength "with Christ in God." Christ is now hid in heaven and our life is hid with him.
(a) It is hid with him as our Representative; this marks its security; this is the sheet anchor of our spiritual existence.
(b) It is hid with him as its constant source; "For he is our Life," in whom we realize a growth in all the graces of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); "Because I live, ye shall live also; I am come that ye may have life.., more abundantly."
(3) God is himself the "sphere or element in which our life is hid. It is "with Christ in God." The Son is "in the bosom of the Father," and thus we have fellowship with both the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3). Thus the believer is doubly secure. He is not only hidden in God's home; he is hidden in God's heart. Therefore we can understand the import of the phrase, "And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:23).—T. C.
The believer's final manifestation with Christ.
"When Christ, who is our Life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." The believer's life will not be always hidden, any more than the believer's Lord. There will be a period of manifestation for both. This marks the last stage of spiritual life.
I. CHRIST IS THE ESSENCE OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. This is more than saying that our life is hid with him or that he is the Author of it. "He that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21). We possess this life in virtue of our union with him and his resurrection (John 14:19).
II. WE SHALL SHARE WITH HIM IN HIS FINAL MANIFESTATION. 1, The manifestation of Christ is the "blessed hope" of the saints. (Titus 2:13; 1Ti 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1-55.4.8.) He will then be seen as he is (1 John 3:2), though mockers may ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:4). He will then appear glorious in his person, glorious in his retinue of angels, glorious in his authority.
2. We shall share in that manifestation. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2); "We wait for the Saviour" (Philippians 3:21); "The glory thou hast given me I have given them" (John 17:22); "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17). We shall be manifested with Christ in the glory of our complete manhood, when the conjunction of soul and body shall be perfect and indissoluble. We may well set our mind on things above in view of such a glorious prospect.—T. C.
The duty of mortifying the old man.
The apostle proceeds to deduce the practical consequences of our "death in Christ" in the mortifying of tendencies to impurity, covetousness, malice, and falsehood. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
I. THE NATURE AND DUTY OF MORTIFICATION.
1. Its nature. It is to resist the solicitations of sin, to suppress its first motions, to weaken its power.
(1) It is a gradual process—it is "to crucify the flesh," implying a lingering process; it is a destruction that goes on daily, for the remains of the old life still abide, though not in power, in the believer.
(2) The word "mortify" implies that sin is not to be allowed to die out of itself; we must kill it.
(3) It is a painful process.
2. The duty of mortification.
(1) It is commanded. We are to show no more mercy to the "old man" than to the "right eye" or the "right hand" that offends us (Matthew 5:29).
(2) It is done in the power of the Spirit. "For if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). Therefore it becomes not only possible, but actual. Thus "our instruments of unrighteousness" are turned into "instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13).
(3) It is the true consequence of our "death in Christ;" for the apostle says, "Mortify therefore your members," in allusion to this death (Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3). We must carry out this principle of death to sin, to the flesh, to the world.
II. THE SPHERE OF THIS MORTIFICATION, "Your members which are upon the earth." He refers:
1. To the instruments of sinfulness. They are called members in allusion to the apostle's figure of sin, as a body of sin (Colossians 2:11), and in allusion to the necessity of the bodily organization to their action. They are "upon the earth," because they belong to our body or our earthly condition, or tend to mere earthly gratification. But they are to be turned into "instruments of righteousness unto God."
2. To the various manifestations of this sinfulness.
(1) Sins affecting our personal life.
(a) Sins of impurity.
(i.) It is God's will we should abstain from it (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:4).
(ii.) It is one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19).
(iii.) It ought not once to be named among Christians (Ephesians 5:12).
(iv.) It takes away the heart (Hosea 4:11).
(v.) It brings dishonour and shipwreck of character (Proverbs 6:27-20.6.29; Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:28).
(vi.) The body was made, not for a harlot, but for the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 6:16). It is a sin against our own bodies.
(vii.) The promises of the gospel ought to engage us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).
(β) Uncleanness. This is a generic product, as fornication is a specific product, of "the earthly members." The observations in the one apply to the other. Those who commit such sins are "alienated from the life of God through their ignorance and hardness of heart" (Ephesians 4:17), and are "delivered up to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26).
(γ) Lustfulness and evil desire. These point to" the lust of concupiscence" (1 Thessalonians 4:5), which is of the devil (John 8:44), which wars against the soul (1 Peter 2:11), which drowns men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9), and keeps men from "coming to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).
These various sins of impurity are to be mortified: how?
(α) We can only cleanse our hearts by taking heed to the Word (Psalms 119:9).
(β) By prayer, as the apostle did with the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).
(γ) By watchfulness (Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:26, Proverbs 23:27). We ought to guard against idleness (Eze 46:1-24 :49), fulness of bread, evil company (Proverbs 1:20).
(δ) We must not "fulfil the lusts of the flesh," but "put on Christ" (Romans 13:14).
(b) The sin of covetousness. The apostle here introduces a new type of sin by the use of the definite article, as if he thus exhausted the full catalogue of sin in the world. It is curious to find it linked with sins of impurity. Yet it is so elsewhere (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; 2 Peter 2:14). There is a likeness between these two classes of sins. They both imply an unlawful direction of desires not in themselves unlawful, and they both grow by indulgence. Covetousness:
(α) Issues, as a defiling thing, "out of the heart of man" (Mark 7:22).
(β) It implies a greedy and distracting care (Luke 12:15).
(γ) It exposes to many a piercing sorrow (1 Timothy 6:10).
(δ) It is a trouble to a man's own house (Proverbs 15:27).
(ε) It argues little dependence or faith in the Lord (Luke 12:30). Therefore "let us have our conversation without covetousness and be content with such things as we have" (Hebrews 13:5).
(ζ) Its heinousness—"seeing it is idolatry." It sets up another object of worship besides God. We cannot "serve both God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). Covetousness is base, because it sets up self in the heart, it is odious to God (Psalms 10:3), turns our hearts away from him (1 John 2:15), and grudges the time spent in God's worship (Amos 8:5). Sins of impurity are the sins of youth as the sin of covetousness is the sin of old age.
III. ARGUMENTS TO ENCOURAGE US TO THIS DUTY OF MORTIFICATION. "For which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience: in the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things."
1. The consideration of the wrath of God.
(1) There is wrath in God against all sin. It is the displeasure of a personal God, the moral Governor, against sin, and the moving cause of the punishment he inflicts. It is not identical with the punishment, which is only the effect of it. It is a first principle in natural theology (Romans 1:32); it has its root in the moral excellence of God; and is inseparable from the attitude of God toward moral evil (Hebrews 3:11; Romans 9:22).
(2) It is an enduring fact of God's moral government—"the wrath of God doth come." Nothing has occurred to break the connection between sin and God's anger, except in the case of those whom Christ has "delivered from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
(3) It is directed against the sons of disobedience, who disregard alike the principles of Law and gospel.
2. A consideration of the former state of the Colossians. "In the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things." It is good to be reminded of our past sin,
(1) because it recalls the misery and guilt of our former state and makes us shrink from the thought of a return to it;
(2) because it humbles us under a sense of our personal unworthiness;
(3) because it quickens our sense of God's mercy that drew us out of it.—T. C.
Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:9
A warning against social sins.
The sins already noticed are personal; the sins now to be specified arise in connection with man's social relationships. "But now put ye also away all these: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth. Lie not one to another." These sins, again, divide themselves into two classes—three of each:
(1) sins of inward feeling;
(2) sins of outward expression.
I. SINS OF INWARD FEELING. "Anger, wrath, malice."
1. Anger and wrath. There is an anger that is righteous. "Be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26). Even our Lord was angry as he looked upon the Pharisees (Mark 3:5). But the anger here condemned is sinful. It is a settled feeling of hatred as distinguished from wrath, which is more passionate and transient.
(1) We are warned against both. "Cease from anger, leave off wrath, fret not thyself to do evil" (Psalms 37:8). We are not to give place to them (Romans 12:19). "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry" (Ecclesiastes 7:11). We ought to be "slow to wrath" (James 1:19). We ought not "to let the sun go down upon it."
(2) They lay the heart open to the devil (Ephesians 4:17).
(3) They grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 4:31).
(4) They intercept prayer (1 Timothy 2:8).
2. Malice. This is the vicious habit of mind that delights in injury to others.
(1) It is the sign of an unregenerate nature (Titus 3:3; 1 John 2:9).
(2) It springs from pride and envy (Proverbs 13:10).
(3) It is entirely opposed to that love that "worketh no ill to his neighbour" (Romans 13:10).
(4) It grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 4:31).
II. SINS OF OUTWARD EXPRESSION. "Railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth. Lie not one to another."
1. Railing. This is "the strife of words."
(1) It is speaking evil of men, and springs from envy or malice. The tongue of the railer is compared to the sting of adders, to a sharp sword, to arrows.
(2) It leads to reprisals; for "if ye bite and devour one another, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another" (Galatians 5:15).
(3) The Judge will condemn the railer (James 5:9).
(4) It hinders the success of the Word (1 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 2:2). We ought, therefore, to "put far from us a froward mouth and perverse lips" (Proverbs 4:24).
2. Shameful speaking. This applies to foul abuse, not to obscene language. While railing is the expression of angry and malicious feeling, this is the expression of coarse contempt and insolence.
3. Falsehood. This habit is to be put off; for:
(1) It is that of the devil, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).
(2) God hates it (Proverbs 12:22).
(3) It is a breach of the social contract (Ephesians 4:25).
(4) It shuts out from heaven (Revelation 22:15). Let us pray God to remove far from us vanity and lies (Proverbs 3:8).—T. C.
Colossians 3:9, Colossians 3:10
The ground of these practical precepts.
"Seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him who created him." We have here the negative and the positive aspects of the great spiritual change effected in conversion.
I. THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF CONVERSION. "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds."
1. The old man is the old unconverted self, strong in his deeds of sin. His deeds are catalogued among the "works of the flesh;" (Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23), as well as in the context. He is to be discerned, indeed, by his works like a tree by its fruits.
2. The putting off of the old man is twofold, namely, at conversion and in the gradual process of sanctification. Some teach that the old man is an unchanged and unchangeable being, and that, as he has been crucified in Christ (Romans 6:6), we have nothing more to do with him. In that case, if we have put on the new man, we are perfectly sinless.
(1) There is a putting off of the old man at our justification.
(2) There is a gradual putting off likewise—a "mortifying your members which are upon the earth," which is to continue till we get rid of all his deeds. The counsel, therefore, to put off the old man and put on the new man is like the similar counsel, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14), addressed to those who had already "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
II. THE POSITIVE ASPECT OF CONVERSION. "And have put on the new man." This is the regenerate man. He is a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).
1. The nature of this newness.
(1) He has a new nature—"born from above" (John 3:3). He has "a new heart."
(2) He has a new obedience, both as to its spirit, its matter, and its end (Romans 12:1).
(3) He has a new citizenship (Philippians 3:20).
(4) He has new desires (Psalms 51:2; Matthew 5:6; 1 Timothy 4:8).
2. It is a nature constantly renewed unto full knowledge. "Which is being renewed unto knowledge." It is not at once complete, but in a state of constant development by the Holy Spirit. Knowledge is a principal part of the new grace of the believer.
(1) It is the beginning of eternal life (John 17:3).
(2) It has transforming power (2Co 7:1-16 :18).
(3) It is necessary to our understanding the wiles of the devil and resisting the temptations of the world (1 Peter 5:9).
3. Its renewal is after a Divine pattern. "After the image of him who created him." The allusion is to Genesis 1:26. The image of Christ in the believer is analogous to that of the image of God in the original man, but will be far more glorious, as the second Man is more glorious than the first man. Thus we see the process of putting on the new man in its beginning (Galatians 3:27), in its continuance (Romans 13:14), and in its completeness (1 Corinthians 15:53, 1 Corinthians 15:54).—T.C.
All distinctions obliterated in Christ.
"Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all." The old distinctions which separated man from man can have no existence in the new spiritual life.
I. NATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ARE ABOLISHED IN CHRIST. "Greek and Jew." The peculiar privilege of Abraham's natural seed is gone. Mercy is shown on exactly similar terms to Jew and to Gentile. Thus is manifest that catholicity of the gospel which the Gnostics repudiated.
II. RITUALISTIC DISTINCTIONS ARE ABOLISHED. "Circumcision and uncircumcision." The errorists in Galatia would have imposed circumcision on the Gentile Christians, but neither circumcision nor the want of it availed anything in Christ's kingdom, but "a new creation" (Galatians 6:15). Thus, while it was an advantage to be born a Jew rather than a Gentile, it was none to become as a Jew by conforming to its ritual (1 Corinthians 7:19).
III. NO DISTINCTION IS RECOGNIZED AS TO CIVILIZATION OR REFINEMENT. "Barbarian, Scythian." The barbarian was the foreigner, the Scythian the savage. The gospel turns the barbarian into a brother, and lifts even the Scythians—the lowest type of barbarians—into the dignity of Christian fellowship.
IV. SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS ARE ABOLISHED. "Bondman, freeman." The gospel has placed them on one level of religious privilege.
V. CHRIST HAS OBLITERATED ALL THESE DISTINCTIONS. "But Christ is all, and in all." He has absorbed them all into himself, filling the whole sphere of human life in its widest varieties of development. He dwells in all, their true Centre; for the life of all believers is "hid with Christ in God." This fact places the saints under immense obligations. They must consecrate all to Christ and resign all to his wise and loving will.—T. C.
The duty of putting on all the characteristic qualities of the new man.
We must not only "cease to do evil" in putting off the old man, we "must learn to do well." "Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering."
I. THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN POSITION. "As God's elect, holy and beloved." They are chosen unto holiness that they should be without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). The saints are:
1. The elect ones of God. They are chosen to final salvation (Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31; Revelation 17:14; Titus 1:1; Romans 8:33).
2. The elect are
(a) consecrated to God,
(b) subjectively holy (2 Corinthians 7:1);
(a) the election is connected with God's love (Romans 11:28);
(b) it is a free love (Hosea 14:5), a tender love (Joel 2:13), an everlasting love (Zephaniah 3:17).
II. THE DISCHARGE OF THESE CHRISTIAN OBLIGATIONS. We are to put on:
1. A heart of compassion; not a head of high knowledge, after Gnostic perception. The apostle begins with the natural and universal instinct of pity, which is here more an act of grace than of nature, for it springs from love to God. We ought to cultivate it,
(1) because the Father of mercies is merciful (Luke 6:33);
(2) because those who need it are our own flesh (Isaiah 58:7);
(3) because it will attest the reality and worth of our religion (James 1:27);
(4) because we shall reap after the measure of mercies both here and hereafter (Hosea 10:12).
2. Kindness. This is the temper of mind which produces a sweet and happy intercourse with others. Our English word is derived from "kin," and thus a kind man is a kinned man; we ought to regard the saints as kinsfolk, for they are children of God and brethren in Christ.
3. Humility. This is the temper of mind which affects our estimate of ourselves. It is closely allied to kindness, for it takes an unselfish view of personal interests. We ought to "seek lowliness" (Zephaniah 2:3), because:
(1) It is one of Christ's own graces (Matthew 11:29).
(2) God regards it as a grace eminently worthy of our vocation (Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:2).
(3) He loves to dwell in a lowly soul (Isaiah 57:15). He giveth grace to the lowly (1 Peter 5:5, 1 Peter 5:6).
(4) He does not despise their prayers (Psalms 102:7).
4. Meekness, long suffering. They affect our outward bearing towards others, especially in the case of injury or insult. They are linked together as companion graces in Galatians 5:22. They are eminently illustrated in the life of Christ, and are both fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). God will guide the meek in judgment and teach them his way (Psalms 25:9). It is the praise of Christian love that it suffers long (1 Corinthians 13:4).
5. Forbearance and mutual forgiveness. "Forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any." This temper is eminently conducive to peaceful relations and diminishes the natural friction of life. It implies
(1) a bearing with the infirmities of others (Galatians 6:2);
(2) a disposition to take wrong rather than stand upon the last jot of our rights (1 Corinthians 6:7);
(3) a pleasing of our neighbour for his good to edification (Romans 15:1, Romans 15:2);
(4) a frank forgiveness of our neighbour in case of a fault,—jars and discords may arise even among saints.
(5) It is a temper which is illustrated and enforced by the example of Christ: "Even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye." His example is decisive both as to the act and the manner of it. He forgave his enemies; he forgave freely; he forgave finally, for salvation.
6. Love. "And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness." This love to the brethren is to be put on as the cincture to bind the other graces together.
(1) The necessity of this love.
(a) It is the proof of faith (Galatians 5:6).
(b) It tends to the increase of the mystical body (Ephesians 4:17).
(c) It makes us like God himself (1 John 4:16).
(d) It is a demonstration of the reality of religion to a godless world (John 15:8; Matthew 5:16).
(2) The dignity of this love; it is "the bond of perfectness." It holds together all the graces which make up perfection. The Judaeo-Gnostics found their perfection in knowledge; the apostle finds it in love. Knowledge puffeth up, charity edifieth" (1 Corinthians 8:1). Love binds believers together, and looks to their final perfection in God.—T. C.
Peace and thanksgiving.
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful."
I. CHRISTIAN PEACE.
1. Its Author.
(1) Christ is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14), and "the Lord of peace" (2 Thessalonians 3:16), and "the Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
(2) It is his legacy to the Church (John 14:27). It is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
(3) He proclaims it—"that publisheth peace" (Isaiah 52:7).
2. The sphere or element of its exercise. "To the which also ye were called in one body." As "God hath called us in peace" (1 Corinthians 7:15), we are to realize our unity by it as members of the body. Unity is out of the question without peace. Let us show the fruit of our calling by being lovers of peace. The kingdom of God is "righteousness and peace."
3. Its enthronement as umpire in the heart. "Let it be umpire in your hearts."
(1) It is to act with decisive force in the conflict of impulses or feelings that may arise in a Christian life.
(2) Yet we must retain truth along with peace. The true wisdom is to be "first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17).
II. THANKSGIVING. "And be ye thankful." It is our duty to be always thankful to God. It held a constant place in the apostle's thoughts. The word, in its substantive and verbal forms, occurs thirty-seven times in his Epistles. We must be in a constant mood of thanksgiving for his mercies, for his grace, for his comforts, and for his ordinances.—T. C.
The use of the Word for spiritual edification.
The apostle, in view of the right exercise of the foregoing graces, counsels the Colossians to make the Word of Christ the subject of experimental study. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom."
1. THE EFFICACY OF CHRIST'S WORD.
1. The Scriptures are Christ's Word. They have Christ for their Author, for their Subject, for their End. This is the Word that is "sounded forth" everywhere (1 Thessalonians 1:8), that "runs" everywhere, to be glorified in its success. It is Christ, too, who gives power to this Word.
2. This Word ought to dwell in us. Not come and go, but tarry as in a fixed abode. It ought to be an abiding power within us. "The Word of God abideth in you" (1 John 2:14).
3. The place of its indwelling is the heart; not the memory or the head, but the heart. "Thy Word have I hid in my heart".
4. The manner of its indwelling. "Richly in all wisdom."
(1) Not "with a scanty foothold, but with a large and liberal occupancy."
(2) It implies
(a) receiving the Word with all meekness and humility (James 1:21);
(b) dividing it aright (2 Timothy 2:15);
(c) trying all things so as to keep that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
II. THE USE OR END OF CHRIST'S WORD. "Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." There is a double function here assigned to the Word: one making its influence felt upon the mind—"teaching;" the other upon the heart—"singing" with thanksgiving.
1. The Word is useful for teaching and for warning. These represent the positive and the negative sides of instruction.
(a) This implies that the Word is to be used by every Christian for the purposes of instruction (Exodus 24:12). When we have received the "ingrafted Word" into our hearts, we must spread it abroad.
(b) It deepens our sense of the value of the Word to impart it to others.
(c) It is a test of the sincerity of our attachment to make it known.
(d) It is by the efforts of all Christians in this way that the Word will eventually reach the ends of the earth.
(a) It must be grounded on the Word (Titus 1:6).
(b) It must be done in love and meekness (2 Thessalonians 3:1; Galatians 6:1).
(c) With a reasonable secrecy (Matthew 18:15).
(d) With compassion and tenderness (2 Corinthians 2:4).
(e) With perseverance (Proverbs 13:19).
2. The Word is useful for the purpose of sacred song. As those who make the songs of a nation can shape its political and moral life, so the hymn writers have in a large degree shaped the theology of the Church.
(1) Singing is a necessary part of Divine worship (Ephesians 6:19; James 5:13; Psalms 66:1, Psalms 66:2). It is good for spiritual recreation (James 5:13). We should sing in our houses as well as in our churches (Psalms 101:1, Psalms 101:2; 1 Corinthians 14:26).
(2) The matter of singing—"psalms, hymns, spiritual songs." These are supposed to represent three varieties of the psalms of Scripture. There is evidence, however, that Christians themselves composed hymns for public worship (1 Corinthians 14:26).
(3) The manner of singing—"singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
(a) It was to be with the accompaniment of Divine grace, that is, with a holy joy (Psalms 9:2), with a humble trust in the Lord's mercies (Psalms 13:5), with a lively recollection of his benefits (Psalms 47:7).
(b) It was to be the outcome of the heart's feeling as well as the expression of the life. This implies singing with understanding (1 Corinthians 14:14). Therefore we are to prepare our hearts before we sing (Psalms 57:7).
(c) It was to be addressed to the Lord, not to man.—T. C.
The principle of a godly life.
This is the practical lesson that flows from the theology of the Epistle. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
I. THE WHOLE EXTENT OF CHRISTIAN LIFE IS CONSECRATED TO THE LORD. Everything falls under the two heads of words and deeds.
(1) We must avoid words that would dishonour Christ—vain words (Ephesians 5:6), bitter words (Job 6:3), deceitful words (Psalms 36:3), idle words (Matthew 12:36). James tells us the sins of the tongue (James 3:2).
(2) We must use words of wisdom (Book of Proverbs), words of truth and soberness (Acts 23:25), words of righteousness (Job 6:25), wholesome words (2 Timothy 1:13), words of eternal life (John 6:68).
2. Deeds. These must be done
(1) in faith, for "whatsoever is not of faith is sin;"
(2) in prayer (Psalms 9:1);
(3) with warrant from God's Word (Isaiah 8:20);
(4) with perseverance (Galatians 6:9).
3. All, both words and deeds, must be done in the Name of the Lord. They must have supreme reference to him (1 Corinthians 10:31); they must be done under his warrant or authority, in the strength of his grace, after his own glorious example, and with ultimate regard to his glory.
4. Christian obedience must all the while be mingled with thanksgiving to God the Father. We thank him
(1) for the ability to do all our works in the Lord's Name;
(2) for our liberty in Christ;
(3) for our victory over sin;
(4) for our manifold blessings in Christ.
II. REASONS FOR THE CONSECRATION OF OUR WHOLE LIFE TO THE LORD. We ought to be more circumspect than others in our words and deeds:
1. Because "we live and die to the Lord." (Romans 14:8.) We are "the Lord's."
2. Because we are entrusted with such blessings. "Because God hath bestowed upon them more blessings, and therefore as he gives more wages, requires more work."
3. Because we are more observed than others. Therefore we must "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" (Ephesians 5:15).
4. Because we have the prospect of an abundant reward according to our works.—T. C.
The duties of wives.
The apostle next proceeds to enjoin family duties, not in the spirit of those errorists, who imagined that such duties were vulgar and inconsistent with the contemplative aspect of the Christian life. His first practical exhortation is to wives, and is summed up in the single duty—"submit yourselves."
I. THE DUTY OF SUBMISSION. "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands." This duty includes:
1. Honour. They must honour their husbands as their head (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 3:6).
2. Truthfulness. (Proverbs 2:17.)
3. Obedience. (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 7:34.)
4. Cooperation with their husbands in all family affairs. They must "guide the house with discretion" (Titus 2:5).
5. They must not assume authority over their husbands, either in ecclesiastical or in domestic affairs (1 Timothy 2:14).
II. REASONS FOR THIS DUTY. "As it is fit in the Lord." In Oriental countries, woman was the slave rather than the companion of man, but in the Grecized communities of Asia Minor, woman held a higher position, and her new position under the gospel may have led her to carry her freedom to the point of licence. It was, therefore, necessary to define her position accurately. Her subjection to man is "fit in the Lord" on several grounds.
1. From man's priority of creation. (1 Timothy 2:13.)
2. The woman was made for man, not the man for the woman. (1 Corinthians 2:9.)
3. The woman's priority in the original transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14.)
4. The man's headship over the woman. (1 Corinthians 11:3.)
5. Her weakness. She is "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7), and therefore stands in need of his greater strength and protection.
6. The subjection to man is placed on the same basis as the subjection of the Church to Christ. (Ephesians 5:22-49.5.24.)
7. But the apostle's language in the text implies a limitation upon her submission; for she is to be subject to him "in the Lord." Both husband and wife must have a due consideration for each other's position, because they are "heirs of the grace of life," and they must see that "their prayers are not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).—T. C.
The duties of husbands.
"Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them."
I. THE DUTY OF LOVE. This love, which is consistent with his headship over her, implies:
1. That he is to delight in her (Proverbs 5:18, Proverbs 5:19), and please her (1 Corinthians 7:33).
2. That he is to cherish her as Christ the Church (Ephesians 5:29), providing for her support and comfort (1 Timothy 5:3).
3. That he is to protect her as the weaker vessel.
4. That he is not to be bitter against her, using bitter words or sour looks, acting rigorously or imperiously, as if she were a slave and not a companion.
5. That he is to seek her spiritual good, for she is to be an heir with him of the grace of life. (1 Peter 3:7.)
II. THE REASONS OF THIS DUTY.
1. The intimacy of the relationship between them. He leaves father and mother to cleave to his wife. She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:29, Ephesians 5:33).
2. She was originally provided as a help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18.) "Yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant" (Ma Colossians 2:14).
3. She is the glory of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:7.)
4. The strongest argument is the analogous love of Christ to his Church. (Ephesians 5:25-49.5.28.)—T. C.
The duties of children.
"Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord."
I. THE DUTY OF CHILDREN m OBEDIENCE. This includes:
1. Reverence. (Leviticus 19:3; Ephesians 6:1, Ephesians 6:2.)
2. Readiness to receive instruction from parents. (Proverbs 1:8.)
3. Submission to their rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1.)
4. Gratitude. (1 Timothy 5:4.)
5. Submission to their just commands. They are to obey "in all things," that is, in all lawful things, for it must be done "in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1).
II. THE GROUNDS OF THIS DUTY. "For this is well pleasing to the Lord." This is, in itself, a sufficient reason for filial obedience, But it is well pleasing to the Lord for several reasons. It is not enough to serve God, but we must serve him so as to please him (Hebrews 12:28).
1. It is agreeable to his Law. (Exodus 20:12.)
2. It is right in itself. (Ephesians 6:1.)
3. Christ was obedient to his parents. (Luke 2:51.)
4. It is necessary to the good order of family life.
5. The welfare of the child depends upon its obedience, especially at a time when it cannot reason upon what is right.—T. C.
The duties of fathers.
"Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be discouraged."
I. THE DUTY OR PARENTS. It is here exhibited on its negative side. They are not to abuse their authority over their children by too great severity either in words or deeds. Some parents spoil their children by indulgence; others, by unwise severities. Bitter words are used, unreasonable commands are given, immoderate correction is administered. Parents are to behave lovingly to their children, even while maintaining their just authority over them.
II. THE DANGER OF NEEDLESS HARSHNESS. "Lest they be discouraged." They may lose heart; their spirit may be broken; they may become morose, sullen, and reckless. Thus they may be turned aside from the service of God, lose the capacity to do great things, become pusillanimous, and eventually become a sad disappointment to their parents.—T. C.
The duties of servants.
The apostle enters into fuller detail in his injunctions to servants, because his intercourse with Onesimus, a Colossian slave now returning to his master Philemon in a new character, had turned his thoughts to the condition and difficulties of the whole class of dependants. His injunctions to them imply that they had a right to be instructed out of the Word, and that if men have less consideration for their interests, the Lord redoubles his concern for them. There was a danger that slaves in the Roman empire might repudiate their relation to their masters, and accordingly the apostle enjoins the duty of obedience to masters, while he announces principles destined ultimately to destroy the unnatural relation.
I. THE FAULTS OF SERVANTS. He specifies five of them.
1. Eye service. There was a temptation to this fault where the master's authority was regarded as unjust and cruel.
2. Hypocritical service, arising out of a divided interest and the absence of singleness of heart.
3. Half service. Servants might not please their masters "in all things," but in such things as pleased themselves.
4. Godlessness. They chose to please men rather than the Divine Master.
5. A base and discouraged spirit, which was to be banished by prospects of heavenly reward.
II. THE DUTIES OF SERVANTS. These are all summed up in the one word "obedience." But this obedience must be becomingly rendered in several important respects.
1. "Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God."
(1) Eye service is designed to please man. Work will be done only so long as the master's eye is on the servant. There is no thought of pleasing aught but man.
(2) There must be singleness of heart, that is, simplicity and sincerity of spirit, that will lead to an undivided devotion to work, arising from "the fear of God," because they realize that the eye of the Divine Master is ever upon them. Dissimulation, duplicity, pretence, deceit, must be far from Christian servants.
2. It must be hearty service. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men." Servants, in obeying their masters, serve the Lord. They do the will of God from the heart, not grudgingly or murmuringly, but with a truly hearty obedience.
3. It must be obedience "in all things;" that is, in all things lawful. Bat servants must consider the master's commands as well as his interests, and seek to obey them in everything, however irksome or humiliating.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS OF SERVANTS. "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
1. It is an encouragement for them to know that masters are only "according to the flesh." This limits human slavery. The master cannot touch the soul, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16), for the slave is "Christ's freeman" (1 Corinthians 7:22).
2. There is a reward for true obedience as well as a compensation for wrongs endured.
(1) Servants ought to know of their blessed prospects.
(2) Their works will be surely rewarded, reckoned, no doubt, of grace, not of debt. They shall receive "the reward of the inheritance," the heavenly glory, by the Father's bequest. God will be their Paymaster if they are wronged or defrauded by man. Therefore they have strong encouragement to give just obedience to man.
3. There is a retribution on unjust or tyrannical masters for the wrongs they have done to their servants. "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." Some think this refers to dishonest servants, or to both servants and masters who may have failed in their duty to each other. It is more natural to regard it as referring to the case of masters, for the passage is designed to encourage servants suffering injustice with the prospect of a day of judgment for those who wronged them. God is "no respecter of persons." Man may make a difference. God finds the claim of the slave as valid as the claim of the master.—T. C.
HOMILIES BY R. M. EDGAR
Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2
The heavenly life.
Paul has been warning his Colossian converts against the superstitious interest in ceremonies which the false teachers tried to foster; and now he passes to the higher things and thoughts which should occupy the soul. He speaks of their resurrection with Christ if they are real converts, and of the consequent duty of living a heavenly life, which consists in setting one's heart upon heavenly things in contrast to the things which are upon the earth. He further shows that this heavenly life is to end in a glorious manifestation at the second advent of Christ. The line of thought here is consequently of the highest character.
I. THE DEATH TO EARTHLY THINGS. (Colossians 3:3.) The apostle here affirms that the Colossian Christians "died" (Revised Version). Now, this represents a distinct element in Christian experience; it means that the soul passes through a death to earthly things—to sin and the allurements of the flesh, just as our Lord died upon the tree. The Crucifixion must have its counterpart within us. We die to the attractions of the world. "The dead," says Augustus Hare, in a sermon on this passage, "know not nor care for anything in this world. Their love and hatred and envy are clean wiped out. A dead man is as cold and motionless as a stone, to all that the living make the greatest stir about. How perfectly, then, how entirely, ought we to be free from sin, in order to be dead to it! It is not enough to keep from outward acts of sin, if the heart cherishes any secret liking for it. This is not dying to it. Before we can attain to that perfect sinlessness, our hearts must be as completely closed against the tempter as if we were nailed down in our coffins; our ears must be deaf to his voice; our eyes must be blind to his charms. We must not only give up every evil practice; we must also stifle every evil desire. Nothing less can deserve the name of being dead to sin. This, then, is the perfection of innocency which we are to strive after." Now, every true Christian has experienced in larger or smaller measure this deadening to things earthly which has its perfect ideal in absolute death. The world has not the attractions for our deadened hearts that it once had.
II. THE RESURRECTION TO NEWNESS OF LIFE. (Colossians 3:1.) Simultaneously with the death to things earthly comes the resurrection to newness of life. We are regarded as rising along with Christ out of our grave in trespasses and in sins (Ephesians 2:2-49.2.5) and entering into a new lifo unto God. Our Lord's life after his resurrection is thus the type of our new life. As our Lord entered by resurrection into an immortal life such as he had not before he suffered, according to his words, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore;" so believers enter by resurrection into a new life essentially different from the old. We have passed by faith "from death unto life." "A resurrection," says Liddon, "is a transfer from one state to another. It is a passage from the darkness of the tomb to the sunshine of the upper air. It is an exchange of the coldness, stillness, corruption of death, for the warmth and movement and undecayed energies of life." We have in resurrection attained to "life eternal."
III. THE ASCENSION INTO HEAVENLY RELATIONS. (Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2.) Not only does Paul regard believers as "raised together with Christ," but also as bound to ascend in spirit into heavenly relations. "The things which are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God," are to concern us. Our mind is to be set upon these things instead of upon the things that are upon the earth, Having so risen with Christ, we are bound to show the reality of our resurrection by leading a new life and seeking the things that are above. "As Christ did not break loose from the grave," says Hare, "to tarry on earth, but, having risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, so, instead of lingering among the things of earth, we too should ascend into heaven in heart and mind, and dwell there with him continually." Now, suppose we ascended into heaven and sat down with Christ upon his throne (Ephesians 2:6), what should we realize about our relations to heavenly things?
1. We should realize that Christ is our Life. The heavenly world depends consciously upon Jesus for its glorious existence. He is the Life of each and of all. As the source of life, he is there beyond the reach of change, an exhaustless Fountain.
2. We should realize that Christ is the Object of supreme affection. The celestial world not only traces all its life to Jesus, but centres all its love in him. To love him with all the soul, heart, mind, and strength is deemed, not the duty merely, but the constant privilege of all. He is the Beloved One who is loved beyond all conception.
3. We should realize that Christ's kingdom and reign are the supreme concern of the whole heavenly world. Angels and redeemed ones alike bend in rapturous interest over the progress of Christ's kingdom and inquire doubtless in what ways they can promote it. The heavenly life is thus a life of hope for the triumph of that sacred cause which centres in the Son of God.
4. We should realize that Christ's second advent in glory is to be the date of our glorification with him. The heavenly world not only awaits Christ's triumph, but also his manifestation as the glorified Saviour. And in that manifestation of the Son the other sons of God are to share. So that the second advent of Christ into this world is a distinct matter of hope to the celestial inhabitants. Now, in all these ways we can in this life realize heavenly relations. We can regard Christ as our Life, hidden, doubtless, from the eye of sense, but palpable to faith, and rejoice in him as our Divine and exhaustless Source of life. We can set our heart's supreme affections on him, loving him and all he loves for his own dear sake. We can make his kingdom and reign our supreme concern, every other thought being subsidiary and tributary to this. We can, lastly, hope for and love his appearing as the time for the manifestation of the sons of God. Thus shall we live the heavenly life on earth. Thus shall we show that we are more citizens of the other world than of this, and that we are contemplating the time of our emigration with satisfaction. We have acquainted ourselves with the nature of the country we are going to; we have studied the guide book and consulted the faithful and true Witness about heavenly things; the soil and climate of the better land are not altogether unknown. Its holy and fragrant air, its religious and happy spirit, its bountiful conditions, we have tried to realize, and when we are transferred to it we feel persuaded we shall be at home.—R.M.E.
Mortification after death.
Paul, having spoken of our death to earthly things and of our heavenly life, speaks next of mortification as succeeding death. It seems at first sight strange, yet, when analyzed, it is seen to convey most important truth. To quote from Coder's 'Etudes Bibliques:' "When this apostle [Paul] wishes to teach us how one may attempt to die to sin and to live to God, see how he expresses himself: 'Reckon that you are dead to sin and living unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord' (Romans 6:11). This language is but little conformed to that of reason. Human wisdom says, 'Disengage yourself little by little from the bonds of sin; learn gradually to love God and live for him.' But in such a way we should never break radically with sin and we should never give ourselves completely unto God. We dwell in the dark and troubled atmosphere of our own nature and we cannot contemplate the full blaze of the Divine holiness. Faith, on the contrary, raises us, in some sort by a bond, to the royal position which Jesus Christ now occupies and which in him is already ours. From that position we see sin under our feet; there we relish (savourons) the life of God as our true essence in Jesus Christ. Reason says, 'Become holy by being so.' Faith says, ' Thou art so; become it, then. Thou art so in Christ; become it in thine own person.' Or, as St. Paul says to the Colossians 3:3, Colossians 3:5, 'Ye are dead; mortify, then, your terrestrial members.'" Accordingly we have here—
I. THE IDEAL DEATH TO SIN. The only one in this world who was really dead to sin was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His real experience is only our ideal. Of course, we get the benefit of his deadness to sin. It encircles as with a halo all believers. But for this very reason we make it the ideal of our heart and aim after it. To be as dead to the allurements of earth as Jesus was upon the cross, as the body of Jesus was when in Joseph's tomb,—this is the goal of our spiritual ambition. Faith bounds across the chasm which separates the real and ideal, and reckons it as already ours. Faith is thus victorious anticipation that the ideal shall be real one day.
II. THE REALITY OF MORTIFYING OUR MEMBERS. (Colossians 3:5-51.3.9.) The Colossians seem to have been chained by habits of gross sin. It was no simple matter to break the chain and assert their spiritual freedom. Before death sets in, when mortification of the physical kind is approaching, the suffering is intense. But once the part is deadened, pain has ceased. This has its spiritual counterpart. The process of mortification is painful in the extreme. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the mind and heart, cannot be mortified by magic. It is a slow undermining of the sinful nature, like the crucifixion of the body. But we must be prepared for it, and manfully must we sit, like executioners, beside our darling sins and nail them to Christ's cross.
III. THE DIVINE WRATH AGAINST SIN HELPS US IN OUR MORTIFICATION. (Verse 6.) When we realize God's attitude towards our darling sins, that they are abominable in his sight, and that towards those who cherish them his wrath must be manifested, then we are determined to prosecute our mortification work with the utmost zeal. Those who throw doubts upon the Divine anger have failed to appreciate what a mighty moral strength lies within it.
IV. THE GLORIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS ALSO COMES THAT CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL. (Verse 11.) The old man, or old nature, being mortified, the new man, or new nature, which is in the Divine image, takes its place. But in addition Christ is realized as dwelling within and reinforcing our "better self." By his indwelling all the old distinctions of Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free, are felt to be of no account; for, if Christ dwells within each, he secures the unity of all. It is this glorious consummation which the apostle contemplated. He rejoiced in the thought of unification through the indwelling Christ. "Our mind," it has been said, "must become Christ's, as Christ is God's. Our very self consciousness, crucified with him, must cease to be our own. Only then can our work, as being of God that worketh in us, work out the true salvation, the deliverance from self-seeking self." We may also refer to a sermon of Tholuck, in which from this eleventh verse he treats of "Christ before us as our Pattern; Christ in us as our Life; and Christ for us as our Righteousness."—R.M.E.
The new life of love.
We have turned over a new leaf, so to speak, in these verses. The old life we have to mortify gives place to a new life of love which we have to develop. Now, the moment we speak of love, we are brought into relations with others. It is the social Christian life, therefore, of which Paul here speaks. As already seen, he is aiming at the unity of the Church. Here we have the means by which it is secured. Let us briefly analyze this life of love.
I. IT HAS A HEART OF COMPASSION. (Colossians 3:12, Revised Version.) All the emotion which misfortune evokes in the heart of God is to have its counterpart in the heart of his people. "Kindness, humility, meekness, and long suffering" are to be in exercise within us continually. The apparent drawbacks in others are thus transfigured by our kindly spirit into helps to unity.
II. IT HAS A FORGIVINGNESS LIKE THAT OF GOD. (Colossians 3:13.) Church members and those outside the Church will, from time to time, be guilty of injustice towards us; we may have just ground of complaint. But how our brother's offences dwindle into utter insignificance when compared with the offences we have ourselves committed against God! It will not do to be severe on our debtors after God has been so forgiving towards ourselves (Matthew 18:21-40.18.35). If we cultivate a God-like forgivingness, then we shall be promoting constantly the unity of the Church.
III. LOVE IS ITS BOND OF PERFECTNESS. (Colossians 3:14.) We need only study 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13. to see how love is the all-important matter. It is what brings the whole life into harmony. For love expresses the willingness of the person to give himself to the good of others. It is the principle of the new life, without which it cannot exist.
IV. GOD'S PEACE RULES AND EVOKES MAN'S GRATITUDE. (Verse 15.) For when we are God like in our compassion, forgiveness, and love, we find a peaceful temper laying hold of us. We cannot war with others, but must follow the things that make for peace. To the unity of peace we feel that God has called us. He has been our Peacemaker and the Peacemaker of many more, and so we dwell in the unity of the one mystical body, And surely such a state of mind and heart is something to be thankful for. A grateful spirit for our personal peace and for the peace which permeates through the Church of God.
V. GOD'S WORD IS TRANSLATED INTO HEARTFELT PRAISE. (Verse 16.) For we can only sustain the new life by the reception of God's quickening Word. It must dwelt within us richly. And if it do, it will evoke praise from our grateful hearts. We will sing in our social gatherings one to another, and be mutually helpful. The meetings of the saints shall be of a most joyful character. And what a unifying element is always found in social praise! How it blends our hearts into unity as we praise the one Lord. The very harmony of the music catches our souls and blends them into something like the harmony of heaven.
VI. ALL LIFE BECOMES SACRAMENTAL. (Verse 17.) There can be no idle words nor random deeds in the new life. All is consecrated to the Lord. His Name is our banner, and under it all is done. God has thus come and made "the common" clean, and the life on earth is like the great sheet of the Apostle Peter, in which the four footed beasts and creeping things were pure. Into every nook and cranny of the new life the consecrated spirit is carried. The meanest matters are thus lifted into heavenly light, and God reigns over all. Thus it is that the sacramental element is carried into all things, and we feel that "the communion of the Lord's Supper is meant to be a sample of, and not an exception to, our common days; and in the rite there lies a mighty power to make the whole of the rest of life like itself." Arnold has a curious sermon on this text, in which he advocates the consecration in the making of "wills." But this is only an illustration of a universal principle which God requires in the Christian life. There is to be no exception to consecration. In a grateful spirit we are to do all in Christ's Name. May it be our single ambition!—R.M.E.
Verse 18-ch. 4:1
Christianity remodelling the ancient household.
The unity of the Church, which Paul has in view, is to have its counterpart and model in the unity of the Christian household. The Church is only an enlarged family. Hence Church officers are to serve their apprenticeship in the matter of rule in the family. If they are not able to rule their own families well, they have no business to take office in the Church of God (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12). Of necessity, therefore, Christianity takes up the household and sanctifies it. The relation of Christianity to family life is most important. In the present section Paul takes up three relations and shows how love is to regulate them all.
I. THE RELATIONS OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES. (Colossians 4:18, 19) Now, it is well known that women did not get justice under the ancient regime, and yet the apostle exhorts the wives to be in subjection to their husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Revised Version). Christianity has emphasized the passive virtues; it glorifies woman, therefore, by showing to the world how glorious a thing it is to be subject and even to suffer for love. Apparently this is to neglect "women's rights," but really it has secured them. It is in woman lovingly filling her station that she secures, not only her rights, but absolutely her reign. Husbands, again, are exhorted to give up all bitterness against their wives and to love them. Elsewhere he shows that the measure of the husband's love is to be the love of Christ for his Church; that is, a love which can be self sacrificing if need be, and which will be considerate at all times (Ephesians 5:22-49.5.33). In such a case, how harmonious family life proves! The stronger and the weaker natures are blended by love into one. Each has its sphere, and there need be no collision amid the responsibilities of love.
II. THE RELATIONS OF PARENTS TO CHILDREN. Here, again, the apostle appeals first to the weaker side. He wishes children to think how pleasing to the Father in heaven obedience is, and, as he has put their parents over them to be obeyed, the children should obey them in all things. There is to be strict obedience in all things to the natural authority. On the other hand, the fathers are exhorted not to provoke the children by their tyranny, lest the little ones be discouraged. Paul saw no such danger from the mother's rule. A mother comes with a tenderness and sympathy such as the harder nature of the father cannot always command. This exhortation to fathers is surely a great triumph for the mother.
III. THE RELATIONS OF MASTERS TO SLAVES. And here, again, Paul appeals first to the slaves. He does not encourage revolt, but the conquest which comes through loving obedience. Let the slave simply obey in the fear and love of God; let him do his work, not in a spirit of eye service as a pleaser of men, but in a spirit of conscientiousness as a slave of Christ, and he may rest assured of compensation from his Master in due season. This is liberty—the liberty of love, even though he is still nominally a slave. It is this Christian spirit which has made its mark and won the sympathy of the world, and issued in the emancipation of the slaves. Although Christianity apparently neglected the slaves, it has really been their deliverer. For what has it insisted on among the masters? On justice. Above them it has pointed out a heavenly Master, with whom there is no respect of persons, and who will do right by slave as well as by freeman, and give all their due. The gospel has contended for justice as between man and man, and the world is gradually coming to it. This freedom from respect of persons which characterizes God is a terror at once to the evil-doing slave and to the evil-doing master. If we could bring the world to this, men's wrongs would soon be righted. We are coming to it, blessed be God, steadily. The Christianized household is thus seen to be a unity. Husbands and wives are united in love's best bonds. Parents and children are united in beautiful authorities and subordinations. And masters and servants are united as subjects and servants of the one Master in heaven. It is the one God of love, who, as he overshadows all, unifies them in a life of love, which is the greatest witness he can have on earth. Let us see to it that the Christian spirit in all its beautiful and unifying power reigns in our households and fulfils within them the work of God.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES R. FINLAYSON
Our risen life.
"If then ye were raised together with Christ." At this point the apostle leaves the polemical and begins the practical. Doctrine again forms the foundation for exhortation. As in combating asceticism he proceeded upon the fact that we were sharers with Christ in his death, so in presenting a substitute for asceticism, he proceeds upon the fact that we were sharers with him in his resurrection. Our being baptized with him extended, not only to our dying with him, but also to our rising with him.
I. ITS HEAVENWARD DIRECTION.
1. In its connection with Christ. "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God." It was when we were raised with Christ that we were introduced to the things that are above. There, henceforth, we found our proper sphere. Our being must now ever, and increasingly, tend thitherward. The things that are above we are to seek supremely. They are the only things which are worthy of being sought in the fullest sense. Of the heavenly sphere Christ is the blessed and glorious Centre. He is, in a word, the things that are above. He is here mentioned with a local reference. The time was when he was on earth and mingled with men. He was seen by the eleven disciples going up into heaven. He was seen by the dying Stephen standing on the right hand of God. And we are to think of him as still stationed ("seated," it is here, and according to the usual conception) on the right hand of God. To him, then, must our being now and ever tend. He has gone into heaven to draw our desires and affections after him and up toward him. We are to turn to him with our whole desire. We are to turn to him for all that we neon. Our spiritual life cannot be maintained without the things that are above in the shape of heavenly blessing, s descending on us, and we must turn to him for their bestowal (in regal manner, seeing that he occupies the seat of rule). We must turn to him with the whole affection of our being. For he is a Person (the Manifester of God, and Author of our salvation), and is pronounced "the altogether lovely." And to be powerfully drawn toward him is the only way to be delivered from that in regard to which asceticism is pronounced ineffective, viz. the temptations of the flesh. Drawn toward him, we are drawn away from all that should be below us, and we are drawn up to the things which are high. We have thus, though on earth, a great elevation for our being. And, in accordance with it, we should look high, even up to him who is seated on the right hand of God.
2. In its contrast with an earthward direction. "Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth." There is a word employed here with a slightly different meaning from "seek." The idea is that we are to be so drawn to the things that are above as that they are to occupy our thoughts. There is not only the sphere of the things that are above, but there is the sphere of the things that are upon the earth, to which also we are related. We are not to think of the latter with a sinful association. The things upon the earth have been made by God, and are, therefore, good in themselves. But they are evidently placed in a certain subordination. They are things upon the earth, in contrast with the things that are above. It is implied that they are not to be sought supremely, but (if they would be sought truly according to their nature and purpose) with a due subordination and subservience to the things that are above. We are not to allow them to occupy our thoughts. And the reason is obvious. They cannot so fill up our being as to bring about our perfection and happiness. De Quincey thus concludes his apostrophe to opium: "Thou only givest these gifts to men; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty opium!" But the opium-eater's Paradise easily changes into its opposite. There is a fluctuation connected with all things that are upon the earth. And we know that soon our whole earthly prospect will dissolve. That is intended to teach us this lesson, that we are not to set our mind on earthly things. We are not to feel toward them as though they were essential to our being. But, feeling them to be limited in quality and duration, we are to set our mind on that which is unlimited in quality and duration.
II. ITS HIDDEN NATURE.
1. We are dead to the outwardness of the worldly life. "For ye died." There is a hiddenness connected with the worldly life which is not to be spoken of. "My soul, come not thou into their secret." But the worldly life is characteristically a life in the outward. It is a life within the sphere of the five senses. It is a life of communion and commerce with earthly things. It is a life which has its roots in the world. It is a life the highest ambition of which is to appear well to the world, and to continue to appear well. Now, as Christians, we are dead, so far as going after the outward is concerned. We occupy a different standpoint altogether. We are dead where men of the world are alive. And the course we have to take, in obedience to Christ, may even bring us into collision with the world.
2. It is a life hidden with Christ in God. "And your life is hid with Christ in God."
(1) It is hidden from the world. We are in a position to comprehend the worldly life from our experience of what sin is. But the Christian life is beyond the comprehension of men of the world, for they have had no experience of it. They have no affinities to it, and, therefore, it is an enigma to them, as nature and art are to those who have no appreciation of the beautiful. They see the manifestations of the Christian life, but they cannot appreciate the motives by which we are actuated, the principles by which we are guided.
(2) It is partly hidden from ourselves. There is a mystery in all life. We cut into a plant to find what life is, but it eludes the finest perception. Christians, then, cannot be expected to understand the mystery of the life of God in the soul. And, apart from that, we can only imperfectly understand our experiences. Our life goes forward according to the thought and working of One unseen.
(3) It is a life of hidden fellowship with Christ. It commenced in that region of the soul which is penetrated only by our own eye and by the eye of God. There with Christ we dedicated ourselves to him. There we have fellowship with Christ, in our joys, even in our earthly joys. There we have fellowship with Christ in our sorrows, even our sorrows of repentance and painful struggles after virtue. And there he is with us to encourage us in all the efforts we put forth for the advancement of his cause.
(4) It is hidden in God. The worldly life has its roots in the world. The life which consists in fellowship with Christ is hidden because it is lived in God. He is essentially hidden—the invisible God; he is called in this Epistle, elsewhere, a God that hideth himself. Our life, then, has its roots hidden in him, in his eternal purpose and inexhaustible goodness.
III. ITS FUTURE MANIFESTATION. "When Christ, who is our Life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." The Christian life is to be manifested to men. We are to make our light so shine before men that others, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven. But the manifestation referred to here is that to which we are to look forward as the crown of our being.
1. It results frown our relation to Christ. Our life is not only with him, but he is our Life. He is the life of our life. The essential thing in the relation here is that, thus living within us, he gives type and form to our life.
2. It results from his manifestation. There is a manifestation yet before him. "When Christ … shall be manifested." It is implied that at present he is in a condition of concealment. He is concealed from the world. Many think that he and his cause are under a cloud. He is, to a certain extent, manifested in heaven; but he is not manifested in the full meaning of his work, in his full glory as Saviour. His manifestation will be our manifestation. We shall he completely vindicated before men. It will be made completely manifest that we are sons of God and friends of Christ. Christ within us will work out till we are made glorious in body and in soul with his glory.—R.F.
Dying before rising.
There is an alternating between dying and rising. Having carried out the idea of rising, the apostle goes back to the idea of dying; and, before this paragraph is concluded, he goes back to the idea of rising.
I. MORTIFYING OF OUR MEMBERS WITH REFERENCE TO TWO SINS. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." It is not a ground of condemnation that our members are upon the earth. The idea is simply the members through which we hold correspondence with earth. Of these members, collectively, the apostle says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice." Our members may be instruments of righteousness or instruments of unrighteousness. We are to mortify them by refusing to use them as instruments of unrighteousness.
1. Sensuality. "Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire." There are four words used to describe this sin. The first describes a special form of uncleanness. The second is wider, and includes all forms of uncleanness. The third is wider still, and describes such heated desire as may lead to uncleanness. The fourth is widest of all, and includes all such desire as implies want of purity of feeling.
2. Covetousness. "And covetousness, the which is idolatry." The article being used with "covetousness" (not with the other four words) indicates the introduction of a new class. These four form one class; and this fifth is a class by itself. The fact that it is associated (as in Ephesians) with forms of sensuality marks the sense which the apostle had of its evil character. There is not here the thought that it is to be among the things which are not to be named. But there is the thought, which follows in Ephesians, that covetousness is idolatry; that is to say, idolatry by pre-eminence. Sensuality is also idolatry. It is making an idol of self in the form of lower and momentary enjoyment. Covetousness has a certain aspect of unselfishness. It is a giving up of present enjoyment; it is a giving up even of future enjoyment. But when unveiled it is really a more systematic form of selfishness. It is making an idol of self, not in the form of future enjoyment, but (which is no better) in the form of the means of future enjoyment. And experience shows that the one idol is less readily dethroned than the other. The next thought (which also follows in Ephesians) is that for these sins God deals with men. "For which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience." They disobey, for the first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." They transgress the laws of the body; they transgress also the laws of the spiritual nature. They not only disobey, but they persist in courses of disobedience. They are the sons of disobedience. They are as though they had disobedience as their father; so vile is their parentage. They refuse the gospel, by which they could be delivered from their evil courses. And therefore it is that the wrath of God cometh upon them. It cometh upon them incipiently now. It cometh upon them in the shape of a materializing of the spirit. It cometh upon them in the shape of inward dispeace. It cometh upon them in the shape of disturbance from without (bodily malady, loss of estate, loss of respect, complications). God has many ways of showing his displeasure against men for these sins even now, and his displeasure will yet be more decidedly manifested. The next thought (which also follows, though not under the same figure, in Ephesians) is that they were to remember their former participation in these sins. "In the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things." In heathenism they lived in an atmosphere which was pollution. And then they participated in these sins. If in this fact there was danger of their being decoyed hack to their former ways under false representations, on the other hand there was strength to be got from realizing how much they had benefited by the change from heathenism to Christianity. In their present joys and habits (for which they were indebted to Christ) they had wherewith to oppose temptations from their past.
II. THESE AND OTHER SINS TO BE PUT AWAY. "But now put ye also [as well as others rescued from heathenism] away all these." There seems to be a retrospective as well as a prospective reference in the injunction. The other sins are in two classes.
1. Sins of temper. "Anger, wrath, malice." The first describes a more settled, the second a more eruptive, state of our feeling against others. They are to be condemned
(1) when they are accompanied with want of self possession;
(2) when they are accompanied with want of reasonable ground;
(3) when they are accompanied with malice or anything like delight in the evil condition of others.
When these elements are wanting, they are not to be condemned, but need to be carefully watched.
2. Sins of speech. "Railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth." Railing is speaking abusively against others. This is to be condemned when it is accompanied with foulness of speech (shameful speaking). The mouth should not be prostituted to such uses. "Lie not one to another." We are not even to lie to ourselves. We are not to make ourselves believe that we are other (even worse) than we really are. We are not to see things other than they really are. We are not to lie to others. We are not to make it appear to them that we are other than we really are. We are not to make them out to be other (even better) than they really are. We are not to state things to be other than they really are. We are to put away all falsehood from our intercourse with others. Reason given for putting away the last and all the sins that have been named. "Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings." Our old condition is personified as "the old man." His doings have been pointed to. In baptism we put off the old man with his doings. We must not be as though unregenerate. We must have nothing to do with practices the time of which is past.
III. THE PUTTING ON IN' THE NEW LIFE. "And have put on the new man." Our recent condition is personified as "the new man." There is a prefacing with two important statements.
1. There is a distinctly defined renewal constantly going on. "Which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him." It may be said that Christ perfected the new condition for us. As appropriated by us, it is in the way of a constant renewal of our life. As in a tree, so with us, with repeated endeavours there ever results fresh accession of life. The end of the renewal is here said to be knowledge. The false teachers claimed wisdom, claimed by their philosophy to give the power to know. The apostle shows how knowledge was to be come to. He thinks of it as the terminus of a long process of renewal. It is the word which means thorough knowledge, i.e. of God and redemption. There is thus accordance with the great statement, "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." There is nothing foreign to our nature in this renewal. God made us in his own image. He designed a renewal to go forward in us according to a God like type. He designed in our renewal that we should come to the thorough knowledge of himself. And this is what redemption effects for us.
2. In respect of this renewal earthly distinctions are of no importance. "Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all." There is a parallel passage in Galatians 3:28. The first distinction there ("neither Jew nor Greek") may be said to cover the first three distinctions here. Distinction is denied as to nationality ("Greek and Jew"). Distinction is denied as to religious position ("circumcision and uncircumcision"). Distinction is denied as to culture; and here the apostle does not take the extremes of culture; but more strikingly takes those who to the cultured Greeks were barbarians, and to them opposes the Scythians who were barbarians to the barbarians. Distinction is denied as to social status ("bondman, freeman"), which distinction had significance in the early Christian Churches, from the number of slaves connected with them, and had special significance in the Colossian Church, from the conversion of a Colossian slave still with the apostle at Rome. There is not, and cannot be, any of these distinctions. In Galatians the apostle teaches that there are no distinctions on the ground of our sonship in Christ. Here he teaches that there are no distinctions (in keeping with the thought of the pre-eminence of Christ) on the ground of Christ being all and in all in the great renewal.
(1) Christ is all in the renewed. The great need of our nature is to be renewed, and Christ fully meets that need. He gives the whole contents and form to our renewal. United to Christ by faith, we become receptacles of Christ. The plēroma dwells in him, and that plēroma floods our being with light, with strength, with purity, with all things. Renewed only from Christ, our life manifests itself only in Christian forms.
(2) Christ is all in all the renewed. Men were broken up into classes, castes. The Jew drew back from the uncircumcised; the Greek despised the barbarian; the barbarian despised the Scythian; the freeman despised the bondman. The apostle points to the fact that the great renewal takes place in all alike. Alike in being created in the image of God, they are also alike in the renewal that takes place on that ground and according to that fact. The poor Scythian can be filled full and beautified in the possession of Christ as well as the Greek, the bondman as well as the freeman. In view of this essential identity, all these earthly distinctions become of no account.—R.F.
What particularly we are to put on. How we are addressed.
"Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved." The Colossian Christians had been elected by God out of a state of heathenism. By arrangements over which they had exercised no control, the gospel had been brought to them and had been the means of their conversion. As elected by God, they were consecrated to God and were in the enjoyment of the Divine love. The Colossian Christians were not exceptional. We have been elected by God out of the ungodly state of our own hearts and out of the ungodly influences that more or less prevail in a semi-Christian state of society. Thus brought into a true Christian state, and in that state devoted to God, and the recipients of many tokens of the Divine favour, it becomes us to fed the force of it in reference to our duty.
I. THE CHRISTIAN FORMS OF LOVE. The concluding representation is that all are bound together by love.
1. "A heart of compassion." In the original there is indicated the supposed seat of the sympathetic feelings. In heathenism it was rather a heart of cruelty that was worn. The weak were down trodden and neglected. The softening influence of Christianity appears in our hospitals and asylums, in our abhorrence of oppression, in the missionary enterprise. There is a fine sensibility to the miseries of others in those who have felt the Divine compassions toward them. Especially are we to feel the sorrows of our fellow Christians.
2. "Kindness." We may show kindness where there is nothing to draw forth compassion. Under all circumstances are we to be king. There is nothing which we can wear outwardly to be compared with kindness. "Kind hearts are more than coronets." Kindness is the disposition to think about others, it adds greatly to the joy of their existence to let them see (even in little ways) that we are not forgetting them, but are giving them a place in our thoughts. As God's holy and beloved, we are to be the vehicles of the Divine thoughtfulness.
3. "Humility." As a Christian grace, humility is founded upon the fact of our having humbled ourselves before God as sinners. As a form of love, it is the disposition which forbids us to exalt ourselves over others. It is a form of selfishness simply to wish to give others a sense of our importance and of their unimportance. Rather does love impel us to sink our own importance and to prefer them.
4. "Meekness." This is founded on the fact of God being the First Cause of the provocation received from others. As a form of love, it is the disposition which prompts us to endure rather than retaliate on those who have wronged us.
5. "Long suffering." This is founded on the fact of God having suffered long and much with us. As a form of love, it is the disposition which forbids us to weary of the good of others. It is enduring in hope.
6. "Forbearing one another." Forbearance seems to be the practical exhibition of the last disposition. It is implied that we all need to have forbearance exercised toward us, as well as to exercise forbearance ourselves.
7. "And forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any." It is here "each other," with a look forward to the thought of our being all first forgiven by Christ. Just cause of complaint has already been supposed. How are we, as just complainants against a brother, to act? We are not merely to endure and to endure for his good, but we are to advance to positive forgiveness. That is to say, in love we are to remove the complaint, so that it is as though it had never been. The highest example of forgiveness. "Even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye." The Lord had just complaint against us; who shall estimate what it was? But he carried out a work for us the purport of which was the removal of the complaint. That we have appropriated, and now we are in the position of those from whom complaint has been removed. Forgiveness is usually associated with God, but in this Epistle, in which prominence is given to the Person of Christ, it is associated with him. The fact of Christ being called here "the Lord" points to the fact that, as his servants, we are bound by his example. If the Lord has so acted, servants must not nurse their wrath. The seven graces bound together by love. "And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.'' There is the perfect number, and they are bound in the bond of perfectness. Love is thought of as the girdle which binds the garments which have been put on. We have seen its presence in all the seven. They are simply love in seven different relations. There is thus no looseness about them, but they constitute a perfect whole.
II. THE CHRISTIAN FORM OF CONCORD. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body." The peace which is the principle of concord is distinctively the peace of Christ. That is to say, it is the peace which Christ possessed and which he left as a legacy to his disciples. He possessed a holy feeling of tranquillity in view of death and under the wrongs which were heaped upon him, in the enjoyment of his Father's love and in the conscious and complete carrying out of his Father's purposes of love toward men. And this holy feeling of tranquility it is intended that we too should have, in all circumstances (in our case based on the atonement), in the enjoyment of our Father's love and in the conscious endeavour to carry out his purposes of love. The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. In the margin it is "arbitrate." And some have thought the meaning to be that, between contending feelings, the peace of Christ is to act as umpire. But the meaning seems simply to be that it is to rule so as to put down all disquieting feeling, and so that we have it toward God and toward all around us. The one body is here thought of as a society in which all are called to a holy feeling of satisfaction. It is, therefore, a society in which concord (out of a Christian ground) reigns. "And be ye thankful." This is the recurrence of what has been noticed as a subordinate feature in the Epistle. What we are to be thankful for is the tranquility which makes concord.
III. THE CHRISTIAN FORMS OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISE.
1. The reception of the Word. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." The Word also is distinctively the Word of Christ. That is to say, it is the Word which Christ spake and which he caused to be proclaimed. It may be taken as including inspired additions. There is a great richness in the Word of Christ. It contains all the thoughts that are needed to give us peace, guidance, strengthening, heartening, under earthly conditions. We are to receive it to be our permanent possession. We are to receive it, not scantily, but in all its richness. We are to receive it in all wisdom, that is, in all wise apprehension of its meaning, and not in the way of false interpretation.
2. Christian song. In Ephesians this is introduced as a counteractive of false excitement, as one of the manifestations of a true excitement of the Spirit. Here it is introduced as the result of the indwelling of the Word of Christ. It was out of no cold heart, but out of a heart of summer gladness, that the Word of Christ came, and, received into us, it wells up in all joyful feelings which find expression in song.
(1) Responsive song. "Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The historic psalms and other compositions used in the service of praise which are called hymns, fall under the head of "spiritual songs." In Ephesians the idea of responsiveness was brought out in the words "speaking one to another." Here it is said more definitely "teaching and admonishing one another." The principal purpose of song is to enliven. But the apostle here teaches, that it is not aside from its principal purpose to teach and admonish. And this subsidiary didactic, monitory purpose it is fitted to serve from its being the outcome of the Word of Christ.
(2) Silent song. "Singing with grace in your hearts unto God." This singing is only in the ear of God. Our other exercises are heard by God too. For it is said, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it." But this is for self edification, with God as the only listener. It is singing with grace, not with gracefulness, but with the grace that preserves from vanity, from extravagance, and enriches with all Christian elements.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN FORM OF SPEAKING AND ACTING. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus." This, like the others, is associated with Christ. His being called "Jesus" points to his having been a speaker and doer in human nature himself. The meaning is, not that we are formally to invoke the Name of Christ in connection with our speaking and doing. But they are to be according to the rules laid down by Christ and as unto Christ. They will thus be redeemed from all mere naturalness and all sinful elements that mix with them, and will have a richness as from the Word of Christ. "Giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is again the refrain of the Epistle, with a certain prominence. Our thanksgivings are to be unto the Father. We are to give thanks through Christ as Mediator. It is only through him that we have leave to thank God. It is only through him that we have anything to thank God for. It is through him that all the blessings of salvation come to us; and so it is through him that we are to thank God for them.—R.F.
Verse 18-ch. 4:1
The two considerations on which the apostle's treatment of the relative duties here seems to be based are these:
1. The position of authority is also relatively, by Divine constitution, the stronger position.
2. Christ is to be regarded as represented in the position of authority. Throughout the paragraph he is designated in respect of his authority. That there may be no doubt about the reference, it is expressly stated, in the twenty-fourth verse, that Christ is Lord.
I. WIVES AND HUSBANDS.
1. Wives. "Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." The wife has the weaker position. "The weaker vessel" is the language used by Peter. She is more delicately constituted, and is not so fitted to fight her way in the world. She is made to lean upon her husband, and therefore it is fitting that in her duty she should fall into a certain subordination to him. This is not only fitting in itself, but it is fitting in the Lord. That is to say, it is Christ who is over her in her husband. If, then, she is a Christian wife, she has more than her husband to regard in the relation. She will be willing to be directed by Christ in her husband.
2. Husbands. "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." The husband ("band of the house") has the stronger position. He is more robustly constituted. He has a bolder judgment. And so the controlling power has been placed in him. But that does not point to his using it for selfish ends. Christ, as the Head of the Church, as is brought out in Ephesians, used his position only to love the Church and to give himself up for its deliverance. So it is the duty of the husband, as the representative of Christ in the relation, to love his wife and to protect her weakness with his strength. He is not to be a despot, putting bitterness into his strength against his wife;—that would be utterly inconsistent with acting in the Name of Christ.
II. CHILDREN AND PARENTS.
1. Children. "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing in the Lord." Children are at first utterly helpless. And for a long time they are dependent on their parents. Especially, in their inexperience, are they dependent on the experience of their parents. That points to their being obedient to their parents. The principle is, as stated here, obedience in all things, there being no exception to it in the mere pleasure of the child. In Ephesians the rule is grounded on its being right. The rule for the wife, we have seen, is grounded on its being fitting. The rule for children here is grounded on its being well pleasing. That is to say, it is a beautiful thing to see children subjecting their impulses, their wishes, their plans, to the better judgment, riper experience, of their parents. It is a beautiful thing to see them rendering prompt and universal obedience. This is not only beautiful in itself, but it is beautiful in the Lord. That supposes that they have given themselves to the Lord. In that case they will regard their parents as given them by the Lord. And not only so, but they will regard them as in the place of the Lord to them. It is pre-eminently a beautiful thing when children learn to reverence and obey their parents, not simply as their parents, but as placed over them by Christ.
2. Parents. "Fathers, provoke not your children, that they be not discouraged." Parents (for we are to think of the whole ruling power relative to the children) have the stronger position. There is great disparity at first for purposes of rule, But they are not to use their position to provoke their children. That is the coarse way of ruling. The rod, though necessary at times, is not to be the substitute for reason. It is also generally the selfish way. Parents cannot take pains with their children. They cannot bear with their dulness. They have not the patience to deal with their self will so as to have it overcome. They cannot bear to have their liberty curtailed, their comfort disturbed, by their children. And so they passionately, tyrannically, carry out their pleasure on their children. That is not only to be condemned in itself, but it is especially to be condemned in those who should regard themselves as the representatives of Christ to their children. Christ does not act harshly to men. He does not act harshly to them. And therefore they should not act harshly to their children. The effects are, as might be expected, bad. The children are discouraged. Youth is the time of hopefulness. With the wakening of the powers hopes spring forth. And parents have carefully to watch over the calling forth of the powers of their children. It is all important that these be directed in a Christian way. But children are easily discouraged. They lose heart before the difficulties connected with following out useful and Christian aims. And they need to have many words of encouragement spoken to them. They need to be shown what they can do. But to give them no encouragement, to treat them as though they were incapable of anything great, to heap reproaches on them, to punish them harshly, is to crush the life out of them. The breaking of the spirit is said to be the bane of youth.
III. SERVANTS AND MASTERS.
(1) Rule. "Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh." The slave was entirely at the mercy of his master. God never intended any one to be in that position. The servant with whom we have now to do occupies a very different position—still, however, the weaker position in the relation. And as for children, so for servants, the rule is obedience in all things. That is to say, within the proper sphere of work there is no exception founded on the mere pleasure of the servant. When it is said that obedience is to be rendered to them that are masters according to the flesh, there is a suggestion, though yet only a suggestion, of a relation to a higher Master.
(2) Principle. "Not with eye service as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord." The principle is not men pleasing, or regard simply for the human master. That is not fitted to be a principle, for it proceeds on a variable element. It requires no more than eye service, or as it is here (as distinguished from Ephesians), acts of eye service. The eye of the master cannot always be on the servant. If, then, the servant is regulated by the eye of the master, his work must vary accordingly, being sometimes well done, sometimes ill done, and sometimes not done at all. The principle is fearing the Lord, or regard for the Divine Master. We are not to understand regard for the authority of Christ in general, but regard for the authority of Christ as represented in the master, even in the slave master. This is fitted to be law universal. For the eye, of Christ, being all seeing, is always on the servant. There is thus excluded duplicity; there is required singleness of service, or the eye always on Christ in the work done.
(3) Quality. "Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men." If the slave looked away to the Lord beyond his master, then, whatsoever he did, whether it was work great or small, oppressive or not oppressive, he could do it, not only with a sense of freedom, but cordially. Christ regarding his work and entering thoroughly into it, he could do it from his inmost being. And so when a Christian servant falls in with a bad master, he is not at liberty, as taught here, to do his work grudgingly. He has this reason in any case for heartiness in the work, that he is rendering it to One who is worthy.
(4) Encouragement. "Knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ." This was a new order of things, a new field of thought, for the slave. A servant rightly considers himself entitled to payment for his labour. The slave was entitled too; but he was not accustomed to look for payment. Certainly he never thought of being recompensed with an inheritance. In the eye of the law he could not hold an inheritance. He was only property himself. And yet here, as a freeman in Christ Jesus, it is promised that he would have an inheritance. This was nothing less than the inheritance promised down the ages to the people of God—the inheritance without any subtraction from it. This he would receive at the hands of the Rewarder of his servants. He was defrauded all his days of the just reward of his labour; but the Lord would see to his being recompensed, and in better kind. The Lord whom he served was no tyrant, but the Christ who had died for bondman as well as for freeman. And so the Christian servant can make sure of being recompensed. It should be a pleasure to serve the Lord Christ now. It should be a pleasure to serve him even without thought of reward. But the Lord Christ is of liberal mind, and will see to all hearty work being rewarded. And if the heartiness has been overlooked on earth, the reward will only be the greater in heaven.
(5) Warning. "For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." If a servant gives eye service to his master, or in any form wrongs him, it is not to be supposed that the Lord Christ will overlook the wrong. There will be a receiving again for the wrong that he hath done. It will be so much taken from the final reward. Christ is partial neither to servant nor to master, and, in the final righting that is to take place between the two, it will be seen that his face is set only against wrong doing.
2. Masters. "Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven." The master has the stronger position; but that is only that he may use his position for the sake of the weaker. He is to render to his servant that which is just, that which does not depend on his pleasure, but is grounded on the eternal order of things. And beyond the just he is to render to him that which is equal. In Ephesians it is said that he is to do the same things. The meaning seems to be that, as the servant is required to give him hearty work, so he is required, on his part, to give considerate treatment. Such equality is becoming in a Christian master. For he also has a Master in heaven. The servant is to give hearty work out of regard to that Master. Out of regard to the same Master he is to give considerate treatment. That Master is considerate toward him; he is to be considerate toward him who has been placed by Christ under him as a servant.—R. F.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
The Christian's higher life.
Our text gives us a magnificent picture of the higher life of man, indicating the means of its beginning, the signs of its progress, and the hope of its perpetuity.
I. THE EXPERIENCES OF THE BEGINNING OF THE HIGHER LIFE. These initial experiences are spoken of under the three allied figures of death, the hiding as of burial and resurrection. There is an experience:
1. As of death. "Ye have died." The soul as it becomes Christian passes through a death with Christ—
(1) a death to sin,
(2) a death to the bondage of outwardness.
Dead, yet alive!—the paradox that finds its counterpart in the gardener's insertion of the vine shoot, that was cut off and so dead to its old stock, under the bark of the living vine.
2. As of hiding away in burial. "Hid." That may mean
(1) what is concealed now will be revealed by and by; or
(2) it may denote a life of much blessed solitude, and so of sacred seclusion; or
(3) it may mean a life of fellowship with the hidden Christ; or
(4) it may tell of a life whose purposes and inspirations are hid in God.
3. As of resurrection. "Risen." That must indicate
(1) a living life, such a life as Ezekiel portrays, "I will open your graves, and give you a new heart, a heart of flesh;" and
(2) an elevated life. No more of the earth—earthy, no more grave clothes, sepulchre, and earthworms, but such beauty and activity and blessedness as belong to the scenes of Christ's forty days' risen life.
II. THE DUTY OF THE HIGHER LIFE. The duty is twofold, and the way of obeying is twofold also.
1. The twofold duty of the higher life.
(1) The withdrawal of chief concern from inferior things. "Set not your affections," etc. Does not this mean, cease to entwine your affections round the things of time, cease to concentrate your energies on the things of this world? So far we have only the negative aspect of duty; but there is:
(2) The fixing of chief interest on superior things. They are twice spoken of here as "things above;" and may they not denote what is above socially, intellectually, spiritually?
2. The twofold method of attaining the performance of this duty.
(1) "Seek the things that are above." Let the higher things be the object of pursuit. What higher things? Plato would have said, "The true, the beautiful, the good." Most modern Christians, meaning the same, would have said, "Heaven." And Paul, meaning the same, would have said, "Christ." For surely Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ. Well, therefore, does Bishop Pearson urge, "Rise to Christ with the wings of your meditation and in the chariot of your affections."
(2) "Set your affections on things that are above." Not only seek heaven, but think heaven; not only think heaven, but love heaven. Our life cannot rise into a higher realm of itself any more than a bar of iron can lift itself. Both have capacity of response. Christ is the magnet to uplift our natures. Love him, and the love of him lifts up.
III. THE DESTINY OF THE HIGHER LIFE. In the fourth verse we have the onward aspect of the higher life.
1. There is to be a complete manifestation of this higher life. Paul has said now it is "hid," then it will be unveiled; now it is buried, then it will be "risen." Because of misunderstandings, and misconceptions, and harsh judgments of others, the "higher life" is now often hid; then all will be explained, interpreted, rectified. Because now that life is so often in itself distorted, confused, it is partially "hid;" then in ease and naturalness and grace it will gloriously "appear."
2. The perfect revelation of this life will be in perfect union with Christ.
(1) How? Because he is the Origin and Sustenance, the Life of man's own inner higher life.
(2) When? No calendar can fix the date. It will be the time of his appearing; and that will be to the ages as his incarnation was "the fulness of the times."
(3) What? The glory we shall have will be his glory. That is the glory of purity, simplicity, victory, sacrifice, love. The paragraph we have thus considered names Christ four times. Our model is Christ's death; our strength is Christ's risen life; our heaven is Christ's glory; our hope is Christ's coming.
"Yea, thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning,
He shall suffice me, for he hath sufficed:
Christ is the End, for Christ was the Beginning;
Christ the Beginning, for the End is Christ."
Death to evil.
The central thought around which the strange and striking ideas of these sentences gather is "Death to evil." St. Paul exhorts us to put evil to death, to make a corpse of it. Here we have truly "Mors janua vitae." We inquire—
I. IN WHAT THIS DEATH CONSISTS. "Put to death your members which are upon the earth." The meaning seems to be the same as Christ's command, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," etc. Neither Christ's nor Paul's injunction can mean hack, hew, maim, the limbs and organs of the body. For that is contradicted by such other teaching as "Yield your members as the instruments of righteousness;" and such disabling of limbs and organs would be useless, for the dumb can be profane, and the blind lustful, and the crippled dishonest. "Out of the heart proceeds evil." The figure in the injunction of our text may be that which the whole context suggests, namely, put these members to death, so far as evil practices are concerned; be as dead to them. Or the figure may have reference to that which describes the entire sinful character as "the old man"—an old man having limbs, organs, etc., here called members.
So these physical members are but symbols of the moral. Anyhow, there is clearly enjoined here:
1. Death to corrupt living. This corrupt living is divided here into two classes—impurity and covetousness. These divided between them include the whole domain of sin and selfishness. Covetousness, which is cherished by many who have the repute of respectability and even of Christianity, is so base, so loathsome, so irreligious, that it is here linked with hideous uncleanness, and is distinctly declared to be idolatrous. Avarice becomes the worldling's religion; greed of gain the miser's worship. Evils such as these, and on which the apostle says God's wrath rests, must be slain.
2. Death to wrong conversation. Paul deals with the sins of speech which seemed, like echoes of the past, to linger on the lips of the Colossians. They are to put off
(1) "anger," i.e. settled hatred;
(2) "wrath," i.e. tumultuous outburst of passion;
(3) "malice," i.e. malignity, spitefulness;
(4) "blasphemy," i.e. slandering;
(5) "foul-mouthed abuse," i.e. all such rough speech as now is known as the Billingsgate of social, political, or theological controversy;
(6) "falsehood," a word, alas! that needs no description. All these six evils of speech are to be slain.
3. Death to conventional distinctions. The special errors that we have seen were prevalent at Colossae were those that primarily led Paul to deal with this evil. Four conventional distinctions that, wherever they separate men's interests or destroy their mutual sympathies, must be slain, are here described.
(1) National distinctions: "Greek and Jew."
(2) Ceremonial: "circumcision or uncircumcision."
(3) Distinctions of culture: "barbarian, Scythian." Max Muller finely shows how, until Christianity inserted the word "brother" instead of "barbarian," as descriptive of humanity, there was no science of language.
(4) Social: "bond and free." There seems to be special reference here to the runaway slave who was going to carry to his master the apostle's letter, and who was to be received as a brother both of Philemon and Paul.
II. HOW THIS DEATH IS TO BE EFFECTED. Evil does not die of itself, but must be slain. Nor does it die easily; it must be struggled with. It is to be put to death:
1. By human endeavour. "Put to death." You are wrestler in some tragic game, soldier in the momentous battle, executioner in the solemn judgment; therefore you must throw your opponent, stay your enemy, hang or gibbet the culprit. Here is abundant and righteous scope for all our fighting instincts.
2. By Divine renewal "Which is renewed." The death of the old is ensured by the life of the new; just as old leaves are pushed off the boughs and branches by the young vegetation of spring, so the old character is displaced by the new. This power is
(2) constantly put forth;
(3) according to Divine ideal—
"after the image of him that created him." Christ the Ideal is Christ the Source of all. He is in the renewed man as the germ of life, whose outbursting, as by one blow, kills evil, and whose constant development insures all good.—U.R.T.
The marks, method, and motive of the Christian life.
This paragraph is part of the practical application of the great principle St. Paul has been expounding in this chapter, viz. the Christian's death to evil through the death of Christ, and life to holiness through his life. We have here—
I. THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. When the Christian life is illustrated, as here, by a garment, the analogy must not be pressed too far. For instance, unlike a garment, the Christian character is not
(1) merely outside a man, nor
(2) separable from a man. But that character is like a garment:
1. Because by it a man is known and recognizable.
2. Because by it a man is adorned. There are in Paul's description eight characteristics by which, as by a beautiful garment, the Christian man is recognizable and is adorned.
(1) "Bowels of mercies," which we may paraphrase as "a heart of compassion." Anthropologists largely judge what physical race a man belongs to by his skull; the Christian must judge what race a man belongs to by his heart. Tender heartedness is a sign of the Christian as certainly as truthfulness, or temperance, or honesty.
(2) "Kindness:" this is the constant, steady, often noiseless, but always beneficent, stream flowing from such a heart.
(3) "Meekness;" for whilst the apostle sternly condemns mock humility, which the pietistic among the Colossians had affected, he rigorously insists on that self humiliation without which no man can be reckoned a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus.
(4) "Long suffering:" this is a temper of life described in the beautiful word "patience," and it indicates freedom from the intellectual impatience which makes men proud and restive, and from the emotional impatience which makes men fretful and irritable.
(5) "Forbearance and forgivingness," which need no description.
(6) "Charity;" the love that girdles and holds together all the graces.
(7) "Peace of Christ;" which is the peace Christ gives, and is like the peace he possesses.
(8) "Thankfulness;" gratitude to God and to one another, which implies a whole catalogue of virtues.
II. THE METHOD OF ATTAINING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The method here described is threefold.
1. Christ's dealing with us. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." "The Word of Christ." By this we understand:
(1) The Word that came from Christ to us. That Word is not to pass away, but to "dwell" in us.
(2) The Word that spoke of him. Whether it were in Scripture prophecy, parable, or statement, it unveiled Christ to us. That vision is not to pass away, but to "dwell" in us.
(3) The Word that Christ himself speaks. He communes with us in the secret chambers of our soul, and what his still, small voice says to us there about pardon, duty, God, must not pass away; it must dwell there.
(4) The Word is indeed Christ himself. He is the uttered thought, the expressed love from God to our soul. He must dwell in us.
2. Our words to one another. We only gain ourselves as we help others. We must communicate what we have received if we are to become strong.
(1) We are to teach.
(2) We are to admonish.
Of this there are many ways. One is here described by "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."
3. Our word to God. "Sieging with grace in your hearts to the Lord." There must be the outpouring of the heart to God.
III. THE MOTIVE INSPIRING CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Here is the widest description of the Christian life. It covers "word and deed."
2. Here is the deepest motive of the Christian life. "The Name of the Lord Jesus." It is the Name of him who brings God near, who is the Reconciliation of all things to God. So that what is truly done in the Name of Christ brings the world near God, lifts up human nature into fellowship with God. No wonder that Paul adds, for all this let there be "giving of thanks." The Christian life ought to be a eucharist.—U.R.T.
The Christian view of family life.
The spirit which was abroad in the early Colossian Church was at once so ascetic and so pietistic that it undervalued home, depreciated family ties, despised human relationships. We have heard Paul boldly meet this spirit with the great doctrine that Christ is the Fulness of all things, Sustainer of all, Mediator of all, King of all, End of all. Here, and in preceding paragraphs, he is meeting detailed developments of that evil spirit by detailed precepts flowing out of that great doctrine of Christ the Fulness. In our text the apostle teaches what we may group around three points.
I. THE DUTIES OF FAMILY LIFE ARE RECIPROCAL, He addresses first one and then another of the group in a home. He does not speak of them or describe them to one another, but sharply, smartly, directly, he turns to each with the summons, "Ye." And thus he summons each to the task of his own duty, the fulfilment of his own obligation. As in some noble antiphon the singers take up their alternative parts, so in the music of home life the members of the family respond with their alternative duties. Between husband and wife, parent and child, the only truly Christian relationship is that of interdependence and of reciprocity.
II. THE PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE FAMILY LIFE ARE SIMPLE AND YET SUFFICIENT. The statement of the principles here does not seem intended to be exhaustive. Some parallel passages to the Ephesians are much more complete. But the principles here noted are specimens. They are moral samples of what must actuate family life. And they are simple enough. Nothing grand, romantic, or impossible. "Wives, submit." This cannot mean where conscience protests. It must rather indicate where taste or opinion differ. Defer rather than strive. "Husbands, love." This great king word" love" (which Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13.) claims from the husband what Christ gives to the Church—his all. And one injunction of that love will be "Be not bitter," i.e. rough, rude. Many a courtier in society is uncouth as a bear at home. Then he is not a Christian husband after this model. "Children, obey." Cultivate the spirit in which the child Jesus went down to Nazareth, and was subject to his parents. Such a going down prepares for the true exaltation; such subjection qualifies for subsequent sovereignty. "Fathers, provoke not." Avoid the harshness, and even the thoughtless exactions from your children by which their spirits will become sullen, hopeless, moody. They will want spirits that parents have helped to make buoyant, not that parents have broken.
III. THE MOTIVE FOR FULFILLING THE DUTIES OF FAMILY LIFE IS DIVINE. Whilst secondary motives are thus given to fathers, etc., we find in the passage the highest motive is again and again pressed. "In the Lord," "Well pleasing to the Lord," "As unto the Lord," etc. Such a life as Paul described can only be achieved by the force of sufficient motive. And such motive he supplies. Here is argument enough for such a course of conduct, inspiration enough for such a spirit of family life. "In the Lord." There is a wonderful fulness of meaning in that phrase, as the Greek language employed it. But not a profounder fulness than the Christian experience interprets when it shows Jesus to be the Source of motive, the Standard of duty, the very Sphere of being to the Christ-loving man.—U.R.T.
Religious regulations for master and servant.
The length of the paragraph on this topic is probably partly the result of Paul's having then and there so much to do with Onesimus, the runaway slave whom he was sending back to his master. "Bought and adopted and in Christ a brother; claimed and completed, and in Christ a man." But besides this personal reason, Paul must have felt that there was, in the state of the Colossian society of the time, an urgent need for this lengthy and detailed description of duty. And is there not now? Are not masters and servants in England failing in their reciprocal duties very largely because they are expecting, as Dr. Chalmers said, "universal selfishness to do the work of universal love"? Therefore we may well notice—
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A TRUE SERVANT'S SERVICE. It is marked by:
1. Obedience. Engaged for given duties, do them. Refusal to do them, neglect in doing them, is immoral, irreligious. You cannot be a good Christian and a bad servant.
2. Thoroughness. Not "eye service." This happy expression is probably the apostle's coinage. It describes obedience that is superficial, inconstant, hollow.
3. Simplicity of motive. "Singleness of heart." Not having two purposes nor secondary aims.
4. Earnestness. "Do it heartily." Whatsoever ye do, work at it. The lazy and lethargic are repulsive, the enthusiastic are noble.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A TRUE MASTER'S MASTERSHIP. The duties of a master are as clearly enforced as those of the servant. "The same light attempers various colours; so the same principle regulates various duties." There is claimed from the master:
1. Justice. That is, what the law demands, what is legally right and square. There is, however, much more.
2. Equity. "What is equal." Equity is more than law, more than legal claim. It is a liberal interpretation of justice in common matters; a response to the intuition of what is right, even though no law defined it or enforced it. It was this teaching about equity that was really the insertion of the leaven that has destroyed slavery in Christendom. What is the touchstone of this equity? Surely this golden rule, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even the same to them likewise."
III. THE MOTIVES BOTH OF TRUE SERVICE AND OF TRUE MASTERSHIP. The motives put before both masters and servants are two.
1. They both sustain a common relationship to Christ.
(1) All are his servants. Servants, "Ye serve the Lord Christ;" masters, "Ye also have a Master in heaven."
(2) All work is done in his sight. Therefore do it "fearing God."
(3) All may be done for his glory. "There is no respect of persons."
2. Christ will rightly deal out retribution and reward. With Christ is "the reward of the inheritance." From Christ men shall receive for "the wrong which they have done."
Our conclusion is:
1. Cherish a Christian ambition to serve well.
2. Cherish a Christian ambition to rule well.—U. R.T.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
Present privileges: future glory.
The apostle now proceeds to the application of the grand truths he has been expounding. Note in what a lofty strain he begins. As in the previous section he refutes practical errors by reminding of the sublimest doctrines, so here, before giving exhortations on special sins and duties, he seeks to lift the Colossians to the heights of that new spiritual, heavenly life it is their privilege to live. (Like a commander encouraging his troops in the field to maintain the strictest discipline by motives suggested by the purest patriotism and the dignity of their trust.)
I. THE CHRISTIANS PRESENT PRIVILEGES.
1. "Ye died." This figurative expression describes the complete change which takes place in those who are truly regenerated. It is most strikingly illustrated in the conversion of an idolatrous or a profligate man. But every true convert dies to his former self, i.e. is separated from it as by a death and burial. (Illustrate from Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:6, Ecclesiastes 9:10.) As a Christian martyr, worn down by the sickness and pain of a long persecution, obtains a blessed release and separation from this present evil world by death, so is the Christian, by union with Christ, set free, as by a death and burial, from two of his most formidable foes—the Law and sin.
(1) We died to the Law (Romans 7:4, Romans 7:6; Galatians 2:19). We renounced all dependence on works of Law and trusted for justification alone to the work of Christ.
(2) We died to sin. We were set free from the love of sin and are being set free from its power. Crucifixion, though fatal, was not immediately so. So our "old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away (καταργηθῇ), that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Romans 6:6, Romans 6:15).
"It was the sight of thy dear cross
First weaned my soul from earthly things," etc.
2. "Ye were raised together with Christ." (Ephesians 2:4-49.2.6; Galatians 1:4.) In the world, not of it. "We dwell in the flesh, but do not live in the flesh" (Luther). The true sphere of our life is "heavenly places." Does this seem mystical when spoken of tradesmen, engine drivers, or kitchen maids? But if they are Christ's they have a life which is "hid with Christ in God." It is a still and secret life, hidden from the world. The Christian has a different spirit (John 14:17) and aim (1 Corinthians 10:31) and strength (Philippians 4:13). He is like a palm tree in the desert, verdant and fruitful, because far beneath the sand the fibres of its roots are enjoying a hidden life of moisture which keeps the tree alive in spite of arid sand and cloudless sky.
3. Ye may "seek" and "set your mind on the things that are above." Is not this a privilege as well as a duty? Reflect on the honour of being allowed to fix our best thoughts and our purest affections on persons and objects not at all affected by the change and disappointment and transitoriness of this world. (Like a sailor amid the hardships of a long winter voyage, whose thoughts and emotions are constantly turning to wife and children in his distant home. He does not need to be told, "You ought to think of them; you must love them.") What are "the things that are upon the earth"? Find the answer in 1 John 2:16, 1 John 2:17. They belong to a state from which we profess to have been conclusively delivered. Shall Lazarus take pleasure in his grave clothes or the healed demoniac in his fetters? Shall those who profess to be living a resurrection life with Christ "mind earthly things"? Riches? (Psalms 62:10; Proverbs 23:1-20.23.35. Proverbs 23:5; 1 Timothy 6:7). Worldly power or fame? (Psalms 73:18-19.73.20; Isaiah 40:6-23.40.8; James 1:10, James 1:11). Shall we cling to a sinking vessel when our home is in sight? If we find it hard to enjoy our privileges, let us take the following hints.
(1) Give more thought to "the things that are above"—to the great themes of God, Christ, heaven, eternity; and in the light of these, look down on the transitory trifles of this world.
(2) Do more for Christ, who, "seated on the right hand of God," is doing so much for us (Matthew 6:33). (Illustrate Christ's manifold activities for his people in that heavenly world.) Recognize that you have a citizenship in the heavenly places, and therefore civic duties among them.
(3) Make sacrifices for Christ and eternity. Treasure there as large a proportion as your conscience will justify of money, time, and every talent you possess (Matthew 6:19-40.6.21).
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S FUTURE GLORY. (1 John 2:4.) This follows from 1 John 2:3. Concealment with Christ ensures safety. Our future is wrapped up with his (John 14:19). Our life is, as it were, deposited with Christ's life in the very sanctuary of the Godhead. God will not forget that trust (2 Timothy 1:12). Christ himself liveth in us and is our life. What is awaiting Christ? A glorious manifestation (Titus 2:13; cf. Acts 3:21 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10). That manifestation will, by reason of the identity of Christ and his servants, be the manifestation in glory of Christians also, "the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). (Illustrate from contrasts suggested by Isaiah 60:14; Matthew 13:43; John 17:24.) Christ is now concealed, and it is our winter; his revelation will bring summer to our souls (2 Thessalonians 1:10). The glory in which we shall be revealed was said by the schoolmen to consist of the robe of the soul and the robe of the body.
1. There will be glory for the soul. No more sin (1 John 3:2), or sorrow (Romans 7:17), or divided affections, or darkness (1 Corinthians 13:12; cf. Romans 22:3, 4; perfect service, perfect satisfaction, perfect security).
2. In that glory the body shall share (1 Corinthians 15:42-46.15.44, 1 Corinthians 15:53; Philippians 3:21). "The resurrection of the dead is the confidence of Christians" (Tertullian; 1 Peter 1:13). That "grace to be brought unto us" will brighten into glory. It will be his glory; that is enough for us.—E.S.P.
Sins of the flesh and the sin of covetousness.
Paul, an example to faithful preachers, is not satisfied with general exhortations; he is pointed and personal in his allusion to special sins. The great motive power is in the preceding truths (Colossians 3:1-51.3.4, "Mortify therefore," etc.). What neither Jewish ceremonialism nor Gnostic teaching could secure (Colossians 2:23), Christ "our Life," our "Hope of glory," could effect. Note the use of similar lofty motives in Romans 6:1, Romans 6:2; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1Co 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20. The term "members" is used, not physically but figuratively, as is "old man" in 1 Corinthians 6:9, including those bodily and mental faculties which may be the occasion of sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. We find first a list of various—
I. SINS OF THE FLESH. (1 Corinthians 6:5.) Contrast freedom of the apostolic speech on such subjects and the reserve of the present day, which may be excessive, seeing that sins of intemperance and unchastity are the most frequent causes of Church discipline. The conscience must be instructed as well as aroused. Hints as to safeguards to be thrown around the young by Christians; their duties to their own sons and daughters, their apprentices, and domestic servants; social customs, such as "statute fairs" for hiring servants, "treating," crowded homes, etc.; bad laws (young girls insufficiently protected; state recognition of vice; licensing laws, etc.). The censure and treatment of offenders of both sexes should be far more impartial, and profligate men be branded by the indignation of Christians as one faint image of "the wrath of God" (1 Corinthians 6:6). While seeking to put away these sins from our midst, we must also put to death the very roots of these prolific evils in our own hearts (Matthew 5:27, Matthew 5:28). Govern the thoughts. (Distinguish between a thought injected into the mind as a temptation, and indulged as a sin, Hebrews 4:15.) Guard all the avenues of temptation (cf. Job 31:1; Psalms 17:3; Ephesians 5:4): bad books; dangerous company; amusements that excite the passions; intoxicants (Matthew 5:29, 80; Romans 8:12, Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24). Let the body and the brain and the mind be kept in healthy exercise; this will aid us to "keep under the body" (1 Corinthians 9:27). God knoweth our frame;" Christ "our Life has passed through our temptations. Elevation of spirit (1 Corinthians 6:1 and 1 Corinthians 6:2), unlike pride (Proverbs 16:18), may guard us from debasing ourselves: "Ye were raised with Christ; mortify therefore," etc.
II. THE SIN OF COVETOUSNESS. Covetousness (πλευνεξία) has been described as "the fierce and ever fiercer longing of the creature which has turned from God to fill itself with the inferior objects of sense." It is a wider term than "the love of money," though that "root of all evil" is the most glaring form of it and the one we take as our illustration. It is significant that here and in Ephesians 5:5 St. Paul couples covetousness with the most loathsome sins. A covetous man is an idolater because he loves, trusts, and serves money more than God. This sin is:
1. Multiform. It is Proteus-like in its shapes: the avarice of the miser, the ostentation of the nouveau fiche, or "that loudest laugh of hell, the pride of dying rich." One of its most common and yet scandalous forms is withholding "more than is meet," robbing God of "the first fruits of all our increase," which God claims under the gospel, though not in the form of Jewish tithe (cf. Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10; Proverbs 11:24; 1Co 16:1, 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:12; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 2 Corinthians 9:7). This form of covetousness among Christians may need to be mortified by repeated acts of giving, though painful at first, till duty becomes privilege and the lesson is learned, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
2. It is specious. It is a subtle spirit, needing great discernment for its detection and great grace for its expulsion. It transforms itself into an angel of light, and calls itself "prudence" and other deceptive names. It is said that St. Francis de Sales received at the confessional a greater number of persons than were ever known to visit one confessor besides, but that he did not remember a single instance in which covetousness had been confessed. No wonder, then, that Church censure for covetousness is exceedingly rare (1 Corinthians 5:9).
3. It is odious to God. (Ephesians 5:6.)
4. It is ruinous to the soul. (Galatians 6:7, Galatians 6:8; Ephesians 5:5, Ephesians 5:6; 1Ti 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:10.)
5. It needs ceaseless vigilance and all the powers of the heavenly life to mortify this "member," which is so peculiarly tenacious of life. Christ's love and power alone can avail (Titus 2:14).—E.S.P.
The new life in Christ the death warrant to old sins.
The apostle still employs the most powerful motives possible in his exhortations to personal holiness. His figures and illustrations vary ("Ye died; ye were raised with Christ; therefore put your sins to death." "Ye put off your old nature and put on a new nature; therefore put away your old sins").
I. OLD SINS TO BE PUT AWAY. From the sins of the flesh Paul passes on to sins of the spirit and the tongue. There are two groups.
1. "Anger, wrath, malice." Discriminate between these. Οργή may be a right state of mind (Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26), but is easily depraved into a criminal anger, or into θυμός (wrath, passion), or κακία (malice which wishes or seeks to do injury). In fact, all our evil principles may be said to be good principles fallen and debased. Selfishness is fallen self love; envy is depraved emulation; revenge is fallen resentment; sinful anger is righteous indignation degraded and debased. The lawfulness of anger must be determined by its direction, its degree, and its motive. In the daily struggle against various forms of sinful anger, we may give the following hints.
(l) When passion rises in the soul, let it not overflow through the lips. Suppress the mutiny within the citadel (Psalms 17:3; Psalms 39:1; James 1:19).
(2) Let the battle be fought in sight of the cross and in memory of the provocations we have given to God (Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32).
(3) Rely on Christ's power to save now (Titus 2:14).
2. "Railing," "shameful speaking," lying. Among the commonest forms of these fruits of an evil heart (Matthew 12:34) we note: "Backbiting," reckless detraction, i.e. seeking to draw a person down from the reputation he enjoys. (It is not necessary or lawful to speak all we know against a person, though many act as though they were at perfect liberty to utter it, if only it is true.) Attributing wrong motives—a very common form of "shameful speaking," a gross breach of "charity" (1 Corinthians 13:7), and an arrogant claim to a "discerning of spirits." Exaggerations; false advertisements; conventional falsehoods in business (Matthew 5:37; 2Co 1:12, 2 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 4:25).
II. THE DEATH WARRANT OF THESE OLD SINS. Covet not, rail not, lie not, etc., "seeing ye have put off," etc. Two truths are taught.
1. We profess to be enjoying a new life. So complete is the change it is described as a change of nature ("old man … new man"), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), a new birth, a new resurrection. Of this new life we learn:
(1) It is Divine in its origin ("him that created him").
(2) Progressive in its nature ("being renewed unto knowledge"), like a statue becoming more and more like the ideal of the sculptor; or a youth maturing into manhood; or a pupil growing into intimate acquaintance with his master's deepest thoughts (John 17:3; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16-49.3.19; Philippians 3:9-50.3.14).
(3) God like in its character ("after the image," etc., Ephesians 4:24). A renewed saint is more God like than an unfallen Adam (Romans 5:21). The issue of this progressive growth "unto knowledge" and mature Christian character is seen in Ephesians 4:13-49.4.16. Everything connected with that new life is in deadly antagonism to every kind of sin, which must be "put away," like slothful habits by the scholar, or "weight" by the runner. Sin is like poison to the new life we profess to enjoy, depressing vitality if it does not extinguish life altogether.
2. In this life Christ claims supremacy. (Ephesians 4:11.) Dr. Lightfoot suggests that the distinctions here said to be abolished were selected with special reference to the circumstances of the Colossian Church: to the Judaizing of some, to the Gnostic pride of others who despised the unlettered; and that his relation at the time he wrote to the slave Onesimus led him to add "bondman, freeman." The unity of the race and the brotherhood of men are distinctly Christian doctrines. "The head of every man is Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Our union and subordination to him constitute our equality with one another in the world of grace (Matthew 23:1-40.23.39. Matthew 23:8-40.23.10). For all earthly distinctions sink into insignificance compared with his supremacy and his presence in us all.
(1) "Christ is all:" he is "all" to God (Colossians 1:19; cf. Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17), as the only begotten Son, the one atoning Sacrifice ("the Lamb of God"), the only Mediator, the appointed Judge (John 5:22, John 5:23; Acts 17:31). Contrast the limitations attached to Abraham, the friend of God (Genesis 18:18-1.18.33), and Moses, who was "faithful as a servant," but could not redeem his brethren (Exodus 32:32, Exodus 32:33), and "the fulness" of Christ (Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:10-58.10.14). Being "all" to God, he is all to us; the Centre and Circumference of truth; the Alpha and Omega of our life; "the Author and Finisher of our faith." He is a Saviour in whom "dwelleth all the fulness," etc. (Colossians 2:9), "in whom are hid," etc. (Colossians 2:3), who is "full of grace and truth," whose love "passeth knowledge," whose blood "cleanseth from all sin," and "who of God is made unto us," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:30).
(2) Christ is "in all"—in all of us; for he comes to save, to conquer, to reign, to share his very life with us (Galatians 2:20). Where he comes, sin must go; he can brook no rival; for "in all things he must have the pre-eminence." And he is in all things: "He fills all things" (Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:10). A sense of the all-pervading presence and power of Christ should
(a) abase the Christian tempted to be proud of birth, purse, or brain;
(b) give dignity to the lowliest disciple in whom the Son of God dwells;
(c) pledge us to ceaseless strife against every form of sin.—E.S.P.
Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:13
The Christian's wardrobe.
The apostle, having bidden the Colossian converts strip off the filthy rags of their old life, takes them into the Christian's wardrobe and shows them some of the robes of righteousness, the beauties of holiness, the jewels of grace, with which they may decorate themselves. These are the only priestly vestments in which God's "royal priesthood" may appear "glorious in the eyes of the Lord." Nor should we ever dare present ourselves before the Lord unless we are attempting to "put on" all these. (Illustrate from "court dress," or Matthew 22:11-40.22.13.) This spiritual investiture is urged on the Colossians by two considerations.
I. THEIR RELATIONS TO GOD. "Elect, holy, beloved."
1. Elect. Our outward religious privileges (1 Corinthians 4:7) and our inward spiritual state (1 Corinthians 15:10) are the result of a Divine choice. Christian experience, no less than God's Word, attributes the beginning of the new life within us to a work of God, and therefore to a purpose anti choice of God (2 Timothy 1:9). But for what end has he thus chosen us 9 We find answers in such words as "fruit" (John 15:16), "holy" (Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:4), "sanctification'' (2 Thessalonians 2:13), "obedience" (1 Peter 1:2).
2. Holy. Here is the true idea of the only Christian priesthood, viz. consecration, being set apart for service and spiritual sacrifices to God. The self denial of the one High Priest is our pattern and our inspiration (John 17:19; Hebrews 3:1). There are not, in the New Testament, two groups of virtues, one for the clergy, the other for the laity, as (Mr. Ruskin tells us) are represented by some of the mediaeval poets and painters. All Christ's disciples are called as priests, to be equally "saints," "holy" (1 Peter 1:14, 1 Peter 1:15).
3. "Beloved;" enjoying that special love of complacency and delight of which Christ speaks (John 14:21; John 16:27). "The order of the words admirably corresponds to the order of the things: eternal election precedes sanctification in time; the sanctified feel God's love and forthwith imitate it" (Bengel).
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF THESE CHRISTIAN GRACES.
1. "A heart of compassion" towards those who are in a worse condition than ourselves, whether caused by sin or calamity. A compassionate nature brings pain with it, yet it is "twice blessed." Silver is no substitute for sympathy. Money sent by a rich Christian who will not take the trouble to "visit the fatherless and widows" is worth less than the sympathetic words and deeds of a poor compassionate neighbour. Refer to Christ being often "moved with compassion" and putting forth a healing touch. So now Heb 4:15; 1 John 3:17, 1 John 3:18.
2. "Kindess" to all, perhaps especially to those who are our equals and need no special compassion (cf. Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 3:8). A kind heart is a cheerful heart, and provides "a continual feast" (Acts 20:35).
3. "Humility." "There are many," says Augustine, "who would more readily give all they have to feed the poor than become beggars themselves before God." So humility needs to go hand in hand, with compassion and kindness. It is fostered by a true view both of our own sinfulness and the dignity bestowed upon us. We need it in prosperity lest we become insolent to our neighbours (Esther 3:5; Luke 18:11), or even towards God (2 Chronicles 26:16; Hosea 13:6); and in adversity, lest we "faint," etc. (Hebrews 12:5-58.12.9).
4. "Meekness;" that quiet, gentle spirit which will calmly endure disappointments or slights. It is a source of power (Ecclesiastes 7:8). It is not constantly vindicating itself and disputing with assailants (Psalms 37:5, Psalms 37:6, Psalms 37:11). When we see the power which meek spirits gain over others stronger and rougher than themselves, we see the words fulfilled, "A little child shall lead them."
5. Long suffering. In regard to Divine afflictions, see on Colossians 1:11. It is more difficult to exercise it towards men than towards God. In relation to our fellow sinners we may learn from God's long suffering towards them. (See the legend of Abraham and the fire worshipper in Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' Colossians 1:21.) And if we are long suffering towards those that sin against God, how much more towards those that offend us! Let us learn of God (Matthew 5:45; Romans 2:4) and of his beloved Son (1 Peter 2:23).
6. Forbearance and forgiveness. "Forbearing one another." This is often the first step towards frank forgiveness. It may avert a quarrel, for which two are needed. "To conquer one's self is the greatest of conquests," says Plato (cf. Proverbs 16:32). This victory over self aids us in the victory over the transgressor (Romans 12:21; e.g. David, 1 Samuel 24:1-9.24.22.). "Forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any." Our Lord has laid down the law of offences among disciples (Matthew 18:15-40.18.17; Luke 17:3, Luke 17:4). A Christian spirit will hail the signs of incipient repentance, and will exact no unreasonable humiliation. And even towards the most impenitent offender we may exercise the most forgiving spirit, like God, "ready to forgive" (Matthew 5:44, Matthew 5:45). Observe the pathetic plea urged: "Even as the Lord forgave you," etc. Our Master Christ still has this power (Matthew 9:6; Acts 5:31). He has used it on our behalf, first when we applied to him with the burden of all the guilty past, and since then day by day (John 13:10). Shall he be so prompt and free, and we be hesitating and reluctant (1 John 2:12)? And this motive is as stringent as it is pathetic. Note the prayer taught (Luke 11:4), the command given, the warning uttered (Matthew 18:35). Imagine an unforgiving man offering the prayer (Matthew 6:12), "As we forgive," etc., and interpret it into plain language. If we do not forgive, do not let us dare to pray (1 Timothy 2:8).—E.S.P.
Colossians 3:14, Colossians 3:15
A threefold cord of grace.
We have here an attractive picture of a loving, peaceful, thankful Christian.
I. LOVE. It is compared to the girdle, put on over the other articles of attire, and helping to bind all in their place. Christian love is no mere natural emotion or self interested affection. It is the fruit of the Spirit, whereby God is sincerely loved for his own sake, and one's neighbour for God's sake. To love even our fellow Christians because they are God's children is not always easy, on account of their inconsistencies. But it is eminently a Christian grace (John 13:35; 1 John 5:1). It is called "the bond of perfectness," because:
1. It is the element of all other graces, the sphere in which they are exercised. It is like the golden light in which some summer evening landscape is bathed, or the green grass on which the multicoloured flowers are blooming. Without love, "knowledge puffeth up," gifts are "sounding brass," faith is idle (Galatians 5:6), zeal may be wildfire, mercy weakness, humility pride, and charity ostentation. With love, each of these maybe the Spirit's fruit. It is thus the bond of perfectness, the distinctive feature of a complete Christian character (Romans 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:8, 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:14).
2. Love is the pledge of all other graces. For if we dwell in love and in God (1 John 4:16) we enjoy increasingly the perfections of God. The outer dress is generally the most valuable part, and a sign that other parts are present and in keeping with it. So the precious girdle of love, visible to all, is a sign that other graces are present and kept in their place by this "bond of perfectness." Cultivate it by charitable judgments, by much forbearance, by seeking to win and refine the less attractive, and to walk in the path marked out for us by Christ (John 15:12; Ephesians 5:2).
II. PEACE. This peace is described by a most attractive name, "the peace of Christ" (John 14:27), the tranquillity of a trustful child. The term "rule" may be understood in two senses.
1. Exert its power to protect. (See Philippians 4:7, where God's peace is likened to a garrison; Psalms 112:7; Isaiah 26:3.) Peace gives strength, and strength peace (Psalms 29:11).
2. Sit as umpire. When in doubt in regard to business speculations, worldly amusements, etc., we may ask, "Which course will the peace of Christ ruling in my heart approve?" To such peace we are called, but to enjoy it we must allow this peace to rule. We shall then be kept from falling (Psalms 119:165), have peace in conflict (John 16:33) and in inaction (Psalms 4:8), through life and in death (Psalms 37:37). Peace is the faithful handmaid of love, which attends it even in the stormier days of life (Romans 15:13).
III. THANKFULNESS. If God's love is shed abroad and Christ's peace rules in our hearts, grateful feelings will well up like sparkling streams. And gratitude to God will deepen love and preserve in peace, fostering forbearance, pity, unselfishness, and patience under those trials which a loving Father appoints for our education.—E.S.P.
Colossians 3:16, Colossians 3:17
The power of the Word and the Name of Christ.
"Having exhorted them to be thankful, he also shows them the way" (Chrysostom). But the connection is wider than this. In Colossians 3:16 the apostle shows how a right use of Christ's gospel may promote the graces to which he has been exhorting; and in Colossians 3:17 how the right recognition of the Name of Christ will be a comprehensive rule to aid us in every duty of life.
I. THE POWER OF THE WORD OF CHRIST.
1. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." If "every word of God is pure," and therefore both powerful and precious, this is pre-eminently so with "the word of the truth of the gospel." To exert its power it must not be a transient visitor (cf. Jeremiah 14:8), but a resident in the soul, and that "richly." We must welcome it impartially—its doctrines (Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17, etc.), precepts (Psalms 119:128), and promises (Romans 4:20, Romans 4:21). We must receive it with joy as a treasure we prize (Psalms 119:72; Jeremiah 15:16), like sweet poetry that lingers in the memory, or a friend enshrined in the heart (Proverbs 4:21, Proverbs 4:22). We may expect it to be a power to ourselves; it will promote in us every kind of wisdom, making us "wise unto salvation," and enlightening the intelligence as well as the heart (Psalms 19:7, Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:130). One chief motive for seeking this blessed occupancy of the soul is that we may be useful to others.
2. "Teaching and admonishing one another," etc. The picture presented is one of unconstrained, cheerful, social religion, as in Acts 2:42-44.2.47; mutual counsel, encouragement, reproof, and interchange of experience (Psalms 141:5; Ma 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:24, Hebrews 10:25, etc.). For this end "the sacrifice of praise" has an especial value. (Power of poetry and song: e.g. Acts 16:25; James 5:13. Pliny's testimony; the psalmody of the Reformation; recent developments of sacred song, and conversions therefrom.) Let us seek to sing "with grace in our hearts," so that every hymn may be a means of grace to ourselves and to others (Psalms 50:23).
II. THE POWER OF THE NAME OF CHRIST. We may be said to do or suffer anything in the Name of Christ when we do it or endure it in recognition of the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and in subordination to him. As all thoughtful men have some ruling passion in life—wealth, fame, patriotism, etc.—the Christian's will be the will and honour of his Divine Lord. This is:
1. A comprehensive rule. It applies to words and deeds (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 4:11). "It is one thing to be reproached, another to be saved, another to be baptized, another to command, another to pray, another to give thanks in the Name of the Lord;" but all may be done by his authority and for his honour.
2. A valuable test; as was "the peace of Christ." (Acts 2:15.) Can I do this "in the Name of Christ," "giving thanks to God"? Illustrate this in relation to business (e.g. a godly grocer thinking about going into the liquor traffic), amusements, politics, etc. We are not at liberty to take any part of our life from under this rule. The doctrine that religion and business are disconnected is a "damnable heresy."
3. A powerful encouragement. It dignifies drudgery, sanctifies commerce, hallows recreation. Having traded in the Name of Christ, we may pray in that Name and be assured of an answer (John 14:14). We may thank God for our subjection to the power of that Name, which ennobles every service and lightens every trial (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). But the first thing to be done in the Name of Christ is to trust in him for salvation (John 3:18; Acts 4:12). Unless that is done, nothing can be truly done "in the Name of the Lord Jesus" (John 6:29; 1 John 3:23).—E.S.P.
Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19
Husbands and wives.
Notice the honour given to marriage by Moses (Genesis 2:23, Genesis 2:24), and still more by Christ (Matthew 5:31, Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:3-40.19.9) and his apostles (Ephesians 5:22-49.5.33; 1Ti 4:3; 1 Timothy 5:14; Hebrews 13:4, etc.). Christianity a gospel of great joy to the world's suffering women. But blessings rest upon law. The nearer marriage is brought to God the more sacred its duties become. In Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19 we have in a condensed form rules more fully set forth elsewhere (1 Corinthians 7:1-46.7.40.; Ephesians 5:1-49.5.33.; Tit 2:1-15.; 1 Peter 3:1-60.3.22.). We see exhortations—
I. TO WIVES. Gathering together some of the precepts scattered through the Epistles, we find a fuller summary of the Christian wife's duties at home in Titus 2:4, Titus 2:5 (make home the happiest place in the world for both husband and children). In 1 Peter 3:1-60.3.6 a contrast is drawn between bodily and spiritual attire, between that which may please the eye of frivolous men and women and that which "in the sight of God is of great price;" not the latest Paris fashions, but "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit". The "manner of life" prescribed in both these passages may be attained by a conscientious observance of the exhortation, "be in subjection." Every family must have one head. Though" love is the fulfilling of the Law," if the words "authority" and "subjection" are never to be heard in the home, it must be through a conscientious regard to mutual duties. This subjection is "fitting." "Doth not even nature itself teach?" The satire poured on an imperious wife, and the sympathy felt for a widow deprived of her stay, supply answers. Scripture teaches the pre-eminence of the husband as illustrated by various relations between the sexes: e.g. the order of creation (1 Timothy 2:13), the derivation of woman (1 Corinthians 11:8), her destiny (Genesis 2:20; 1 Corinthians 11:7, 1 Corinthians 11:9), her share in the first transgression (1 Timothy 2:14) and penalty (Genesis 3:16), and their relative position in the kingdom of grace (1 Corinthians 11:3). Thus submission is "fitting in the Lord." And the same words remind us of the only limit to it (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29). Two motives are suggested.
1. An ungodly husband may thus be won for Christ (1 Peter 3:1; 1 Corinthians 7:16).
2. An obedient wife is a living type of Christ's obedient Church, and is thus a witness to the reality of Christ's authority in both the family and the Church.
II. TO HUSBANDS. "In exhortations the scales should be equally poised" (Chrysostom) as they are here. For what St. Paul has said to wives already suggests to husbands: If our wives are to be such to us, "what manner of persons," etc.? (2 Peter 3:11). Turning to 1 Peter 3:7, we see some of the husband's duties. "Dwell with them" (making home magnetic) "according to knowledge" (the highest wisdom you can gain for governing and guiding), "giving honour," etc. (the honour of esteem, of attention to the latest day of life, of confidence, etc.). These duties are summed up here in "love" (Romans 13:10). St. Paul does not say, as the complement of 1 Peter 3:18, "Govern them," but "Love them." The loving husband will secure the dutiful wife. Motives are suggested both by reason and revelation.
1. A wife is, by God's appointment, part of our very selves (Ephesians 5:31 and Ephesians 5:28). Marriage is a union of souls. "Bitter against them?"—against those we have taken into the very shrine of our lives? Plutarch tells us, "They who did sacrifice at the rites of Juno took out the gall of the victim and threw it away, signifying by the ceremony that it was not fit that bile and bitterness should enter into the married state." W. Jay quotes Ephesians 5:29 thus: "'No man ever yet hated his own flesh,' but many a monster has done so."
2. A wife is the weaker vessel physically, not spiritually. Further motives, addressed to the godly, are:
3. You are "heirs together of the grace of life." Disunion will hinder prayers (Matthew 18:19) and progress in your pilgrimage.
4. A husband's love is to be a copy of Christ's love (Ephesians 5:25-49.5.27), self sacrificing, purifying, winning the allegiance of the whole nature.
1. The grave responsibility of entering the marriage relation. Take no one as a wife for whom you cannot cherish the love of esteem; or as a husband whom you cannot reverence as worthy of being a guide and a stay.
2. The duty of Christians to marry "only in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 7:39).
3. The preciousness of a spiritual bond which shall survive the dissolution of the marriage tie by death (Luke 20:35, Luke 20:36).—E. S. P.
Colossians 3:20, Colossians 3:21
Children and parents.
The family and the Church, the natural and spiritual home, are the two most sacred associations on earth, having as their Head. "the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15). The strength of the nation and the welfare of the world are inseparably bound up with families. Madame de Stael, asked by Bonaparte what was the greatest want of France, replied, "Mothers." The gospel brings to families the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 17:7) and of Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:13-40.19.16; Acts 2:39). It has messages to children and to parents.
I. THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL TO CHILDREN. Children have a place in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:16), recognized by baptism into the Name of Christ, the Lord of all (Matthew 28:18-40.28.20). Hence they are addressed as called to be young disciples. The obedience of childhood to both parents (Proverbs 1:8) prepares for dutiful love in more advanced years (Proverbs 23:22), and teaches lessons of submission to the will of the Divine Father. Three motives are suggested in these messages.
1. "For this is right." (Ephesians 6:1.) There is a fine ring as of genuine metal in this motive—the supremacy of duty irrespective of reward. Obedience is but payment in part of a debt due to parents.
2. "This is well pleasing in the Lord." Remembering the one qualification suggested by "in the Lord," children may enjoy Enoch's testimony (Hebrews 11:5).
3. It has a special promise (Ephesians 6:2, Ephesians 6:3), which was given to Gentiles. Illustrate from the national persistence of the Chinese; from the continuance of the Rechabites; and from the tendency of obedience and purity in youth to promote health and long life in maturity. But the complexity of natural laws forbids us to consider this an absolute promise to each individual. The most dutiful Child among men (Luke 2:51; John 19:25-43.19.27) died young under the law of obedience and sacrifice for others (John 12:24-43.12.26).
II. THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL TO PARENTS. Combining Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4, we are reminded of the following truths.
1. The grave responsibility of parents towards their children: who bear on them the image of God, though marred by evil; who belong to Christ and have a place in the kingdom of God, and yet are in a world of sin; who have to be steered through the perils of youth to a Christian manhood and womanhood, which we desire to be something better than our own.
2. The privilege of recognizing their relationship to Christ. They belong to him. They need not to be brought into, but to be brought up in, the nurture of the Lord. Christ (John 1:9) is nearer to them and speaks to them earlier than we can. If we are giving to them wise Christian nurture we should expect that they will grow up within the shelter of the fold, following the Shepherd's steps.
3. There is a treatment which discourages early piety. Anything calculated to provoke to anger tends to discourage children from believing they can be young disciples and seeking to live as such. Hence this caution to fathers (as heads of the home and as more likely to abuse their authority). From which caution and the precept in Ephesians 6:4, we may gather such hints on parental duty as the following. Make the character and temperament of each child a special study, employing moral principles impartially, but adapting treatment to individual cases. Rule by love and not by fear, avoiding the perils of over indulgence (1 Samuel 3:13; 1 Kings 1:6) and over commandment, never making false threats, nor hesitating to revoke a hasty command which reflection will not justify; nor punishing under the influence of passion. Seek to win the confidence of the children in regard to their spiritual history. Do not propose to them tests of Christian character unsuitable to their age, or visit childish faults as though they were grave moral delinquencies. In choosing for them companions, schools, occupations, "seek first the kingdom of God," etc. (As warning illustrations, cf. Genesis 13:10-1.13.13; Genesis 19:14, Genesis 19:31, etc.; 2 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 21:6.) In every department of life seek to combine the needed discipline (παιδεία) and instruction (νουθεσία) with that personal influence and example which alone can make them "the chastening and admonition of the Lord."
4. Children are a most powerful and touching motive to parental piety. (Cf. John 17:19.)—E.S.P.
Servants and their masters.
Many of the "servants" of the New Testament were slaves. Their general condition was lamentable. Illustrate this from the penal code, etc. (Smith's 'Dictionary of Antiquities,' art. "Servus"), and from the incident that had recently occurred at Rome (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 14:42-45, or Conybeare and Howson's 'St. Paul,' 2:468, n.). Paul's connection with Onesimus also brought the subject prominently before his mind. Christianity, by the very divinity of its truths, tended to unsettle the mind of a converted slave if his master were a Christian, and still more if he were a reckless heathen, It came like a torch of truth into an atmosphere laden with the explosive materials of falsehood and fraud. It might easily have lit up the flames of a new servile war. But Jesus Christ came to effect the grandest revolution, noiselessly, by the spread of Divine principles fatal to every wrong (Isaiah 42:2-23.42.4, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 42:7). The precept, Matthew 7:12, laid the axe to the root of slavery, as it also under minded the ramparts of every other ancient wrong. Christianity must crush slavery, or it will be corrupted and vitiated by it. Meanwhile it bettered the position of converted slaves. It made them masters of their own consciences. It taught them so to prize their spiritual privileges as not to be over anxious about their earthly lot (1 Corinthians 7:21-46.7.24). The same principles are applicable to the present conditions of Christian servants and their masters.
I. THE DUTY AND DIGNITY OF CHRISTIAN SERVANTS. It is significant that some of the most impressive statements of Christian doctrine and duty are found in sections of the Epistles addressed to servants (Matthew 7:22-40.7.25; Titus 2:9-56.2.14; 1 Peter 2:18-60.2.25). In this passage we see:
1. The servant's duty. (Matthew 7:22.) We are reminded here, as in the previous exhortations, of the qualification implied in the term, "according to the flesh;" e.g. Obadiah (1 Kings 18:3, 1 Kings 18:4). Masters cannot command the consciences even of young apprentices (cf. Matthew 22:21; Romans 14:12). God only can adjust the shares of responsibility for a double sin (Job 12:16). Servants are especially warned against a common form of unconscientiousness—"eye service;" e.g. wasting a master's time, or hiding up slovenly work done in his absence. The fidelity of Joseph (Genesis 39:3, Genesis 39:6, Genesis 39:22, Genesis 39:23) may be taken as a pattern, and Nehemiah's maxim (Nehemiah 5:15) as a motto.
2. The servant's privilege. (Verse 23.) Being bound to do everything in the fear of God, he may do everything in the love of God. The great regulating principle of the Christian life may be a motive and an undercurrent of thought in every detail of duty (as the love of wife and children is to a father busied in commerce). As Jesus was "about his Father's business" when at the carpenter's bench, and as Paul was "serving the Lord Christ" when plying the needle or shuttle, so may Christ be served in the kitchen. (Illustrate from George Herbert's 'The Elixir.') Such service being "from the soul" will be such as can be presented to the eye of the Divine Master, who is always watching us, with that "singleness of heart" which is the strength and stay of every true disciple's character (2 Corinthians 1:12).
3. The servant's recompense. (Verses 24, 25.) The twenty-fifth verse reminds even down-trodden slaves that the wrongs they endure will be no excuse for the wrongs they do. The law of Leviticus 19:15 is the rule of the Divine Judge. But the encouragement precedes the warning. The reward will be proportionate (Ephesians 6:8; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:8). It will consist of an inheritance (Matthew 25:34; 1 Peter 1:4), the chief glory of which will be its sinless service of a Master who, by giving us the honour of thus serving him (Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:4), will be serving us (Luke 12:37).
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CHRISTIAN MASTERS. (Colossians 4:1.) Two things are demanded even for a slave.
1. Justice. This could easily be refused; and human tribunals, if they could be appealed to, might entangle the weak, but be powerless to restrain the strong. Plato ('De Leg.,' c. 6) tells us that the noblest specimen of justice is when a man abstains from injuring those he may easily wrong. Christianity demands even more than this. Hence such cautions as some of the rules of feudalism suggest: "Between the servant and the lord there is no judge save God;" "The lord who exacts what is unjust from his servant exacts it at the peril of his soul."
2. "That which is equal." (Cf. Ephesians 6:9.) This extends to slaves the protection of our Lord's "golden rule," and places masters under this royal law. This points towards emancipation, and in most cases enforces it on the enlightened conscience. In our present circumstances the rendering of that which is equal will restrain masters from giving the lowest market price for labour such as bare justice might demand when that price involves grinding poverty; and leaving old servants to "the law of demand and supply." But servants must live under the same law, not forgetting the responsibilities and risks of capital, or nurturing an unreasonable selfishness. Some noble illustrations of how Christianity leavens commerce in this aspect have been seen in England during the "cotton famine" of 1862, and in more recent years, when, for the sake of the workpeople, mills have been kept running and collieries working at a very serious loss. Observe the motive: "Ye have a Master in heaven," "higher than the highest," before whom earthly distinctions are but trifles; who delights to observe every generous act who at any time may call master or servant to give an account of his stewardship; from whom we shall need to receive, not rigid justice, but unmerited mercy, through his own generous gift of grace in Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:7; Matthew 7:2).—E.S.P.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADNENEY
If we would understand St. Paul we must often remind ourselves of his view of the Christian life as a union and identification with the life of Christ in its several stages. The apostle teaches that the Christian has to live spiritually the same life that Christ lived both spiritually and visibly. He must humble himself like Christ, his old self must be crucified, he must be buried to the world and then rise again in a new life. Now, we are to see how the Ascension follows the Resurrection; how, as it was in the human experience of Christ, so spiritually to us there must be a rising to the things above after we have come from the death of sin to the new Christian life.
I. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION SPRINGS FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF A NEW SPIRITUAL LIFE. The resurrection must precede the ascension. Christ rose from the dead before he was received up into heaven. We have our resurrection. Without it we vainly strive to aspire to higher things. So long as the soul is dead in trespasses and sins it can have no power to rise to the heights of celestial experience. But this resurrection has taken place in every true Christian. Christianity does not satisfy itself with the death of the old life of sin. It is itself a new resurrection life. The destruction of old habits, evil pleasures, a wicked will, etc., are but the first process. The very purpose of this killing of the old is to make way for the awakening of the new life. Christ could not have risen if he had not died. He died that he might rise again. We die to sin that we may thereby rise into newness of life. The Christian lives with the energies, faculties, hopes, and aims of a new life. All is not done in the act of the new birth. This, like natural birth, is the beginning of greater things. The aspect of the new life must be onward and upward.
II. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION AIMS AT THE THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE. It must soar above the sinful pleasures and habits of the past. It would be undoing all the work of redemption if the freed soul were to let itself be again taken captive by sin. The death agonies of repentance and the birth throes of the new life would be endured in vain if, like a sow returning to its wallowing in the mire, the soul went back again to grovel in the low and evil things of its old life. What is the use of the beautiful wings of the moth if it continues to crawl over the garbage on which the caterpillar fed? Moreover, the Christian aspiration must carry him away from the old narrow restraints and formal methods and laws of the old life. It is not for him to go back to "ordinances" (Colossians 2:20). Observe, however, that the aspiration is to be to that which is above, not merely to that which is future. The mere longing for heaven as a home of the future may degenerate into an idle sentiment. The true Christian aspiration looks upward rather than forward. It seeks the heavenly things that may be had already in some degree. Its aims are for those things which are spiritually higher and better than the things at present experienced. The Christian should prefer heavenly treasure to earthly riches; the smile of God to the favour of man; truth, purity, and love to any things that are seen and temporal.
III. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION IS SUPPORTED BY FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. Nothing is more difficult than active aspiration. The aspiration of sentiment that looks up may be easy. But the aspiration of life that seeks the things that are above is beyond our common endeavours. The wings of the soul are feeble. We lose ourselves in the clouds of our lower atmosphere before we have a glimpse of the stars above. Storms beat us back again to earth, weak and weary and sad. We can only safely aspire in Christ. As we die with him and rise from the grave of our old selves with him, so we ascend by continued fellowship with him. We may hold it true
"That men may rise on stepping stones
Of their dead selves to higher things."
But we find in experience that the process is slow and toilsome. We want a hand above to draw us up. Now, as Christ is already in glory, when we seek to be near to Christ we approach his high estate. Two important lessons flow from this truth.
1. We cannot remain in fellowship with Christ if we grovel among the things of earth. Christ ascending to heavenly places will leave us behind and beneath his companionship unless we ascend to heavenly mindedness. The worldly minded Christian is the Christless Christian.
2. But close fellowship with Christ is the one way by means of which we may ascend to the things which are above.—W.F.A.
The hidden life.
After Christ died he was seen no more by the world. It is true that for forty days he appeared repeatedly on earth, but only to his own disciples. The world never saw him after the stone was rolled against the entrance of the sepulchre in Joseph's garden on the night of the Crucifixion. And soon he ascended to heaven to be with God, and was no longer visible even to his own followers. But he will come again, when "every eye shall behold him." Now, a similar experience is that of he true life of the Christian. He has died to the old life in the world which the world fully understood. He has risen to a new life which the world does not understand—a secret, internal, spiritual life united to the life of Christ and hidden in God. But this life will be revealed when Christ appears again.
I. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS HIDDEN.
1. Its source of supply is hidden. Its origin is mysterious; for "the wind. bloweth where it listeth," etc. And its continued sustenance is mysterious. The same Spirit which feeds it gives its birth. The world sees the fire in the front, and they wonder that the waters of adversity do not quench it; but not behind, where One is constantly pouring on the oil of spiritual grace.
2. Its true nature is hidden. The fruits are manifest. The hidden nature of the spiritual life is no excuse for fruitlessness in the outer life. But the life itself is not the less secret. The stream flows underground, though it proves its presence by the fresh verdure above. It is known only to the soul and to God; known perfectly only to God, for we are mysteries to ourselves.
3. Its destiny is hidden. We may hear the deep murmur of the water of life. But we cannot trace the course of the river, nor see where it flows into the ocean of God's being. The world does not understand the aims and aspirations of the Christian. Thus he may be much maligned. Let him mercifully refrain from judging those who in their opposition know not what they do.
II. THIS LIFE IS WITH CHRIST IN GOD.
1. It is with Christ. That is the essential characteristic of it. Union with Christ is the cause of all the glorious and mysterious results of Christian experience. Christ is now hidden in God. Therefore his people are spiritually hidden with him. Better be hidden with Christ than famous without him. There are secrets that are delicious in their very secrecy. What can be more happy than the secret relation of Christ to the soul?
2. It is in God. This fact accounts for the secret character of the life. God is unseen, and all relations with him are invisible. To be deep and spiritual our life must go out into the darkness that it may find its home in God. If there is no mystery in our Christian experience, this must be shallow and altogether earthly. It can have no living relation to God.
III. THE HIDDEN LIFE WILL BE MANIFESTED IN THE FUTURE. We talk too exclusively of the revelation of evil experiences in the great future. But many good and glorious secrets will also be declared. The despised faithful servant of Christ will be honoured, the misjudged character will be cleared, the hidden life will reveal itself in glory. The idea of a "spiritual body" seems to imply the visible appearance of the spiritual life. The manifestation of Christ will bring with it this manifestation of his people (1 John 3:2). Note, the doctrine of the hidden Christian life is placed between two practical exhortations:
(1) that we should set our mind on the things that are above (Colossians 3:2); and
(2) that we should mortify what remains of the evil life (Colossians 3:5).—W.F.A.
Colossians 3:11 (last clause)
Christ all, and in all.
I. THE FACT.
1. Christ is everything to the Christian. All other interests sink into insignificance before him, as the stars fade at the rising of the sun.
(1) Christ is the whole price of redemption. We need no additional grace to that of his gospel. We have not to supplement that gospel by the Law, or to eke out the store of grace with our good works, or to add the intercession of saints to that of Christ, or to offer any fresh sacrifices to complete the atonement. Christ cried on the cross, "It is finished." He, and he alone, is sufficient to bring full salvation.
(2) Christ is the one Lord of our lives. He will accept no divided devotion. He, and he alone, has a claim to rule over our hearts. There is but one King of the kingdom of heaven that is set up in our midst. Any priestly pretension, any dogmatic teaching, or any political coercion that interferes with the authority of Christ, is treason against Heaven.
(3) In Christ are all our requirements. To be in him now is the deepest peace; to be with him hereafter is the joy of heaven. All sympathy for all kinds of men, in all possible conditions of sorrow or of joy, may be found in him. All truth of the highest Divine things may be seen in him, the "Word" of God.
2. Christ fills everything for the Christian. He is in all.
(1) Christ is in the whole heart. All the true Christian's thought and affection are filled with Christ. It is true that Christ does not exclude natural human affections. It was the fantastic mistake of the Church that a St. Catherine, in order to be the bride of Christ, must be excluded from human love. On the contrary, Christ enters our human affections and pervades them. In regard to social intercourse we may say—
"Let not my heart within me burn
Except in all I thee discern."
(2) Christ is in the whole of life. lie does not belong to a small consecrated section of it, a temple of holiness, shut off from the busy haunts of commerce and pleasure. He comes into our business, our pleasure, our mundane affairs generally, he is as much in the office and the workshop as in the Church. He claims the six days as much as the Sunday.
(3) Christ is in each and all of his people, he is not only in apostolic leaders and pattern saints; he is in little children, the ignorant, the insignificant, the imperfect, the latest converts of a mission to degraded heathen.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS FACT.
1. It is a motive for holiness. If we are new men in Christ, all life belongs to him. There is no room for the indulgence of sin. Any unclean spot is a desecration of his temple.
2. This fact breaks down the separating barrier between man and man. Political distinctions ("Greek and Jew"), religious distinction's apart from Christ ("circumcision and uncircumcision"), distinctions of civilization ("barbarian, Scythian"), social distinctions ("bondman, freeman"), all melt before the unifying influence of the common presence of Christ.
3. This fact is a motive for Christian charity. (Colossians 3:12,Colossians 3:13.) It should lead to wider sympathy and warmer compassion; to greater gentleness, forbearance, and meekness; to a more forgiving spirit among Christians. Remember that as you treat your fellow Christian so you are treating Christ (Matthew 25:45). If it is difficult to love him for his own sake, love him for the sake of Christ. If there is little of beauty in his soul and much to repel and annoy us, still consider that, though the temple is not attractive, there dwells within it One who is altogether lovely. Love the Christ who may be found even in the uncouth Christian.—W.F.A.
The bond of perfectness.
I. NO CHRISTIAN CHARACTER IS PERFECT WITHOUT LOVE. There may be wide knowledge, stainless purity, and fiery zeal. But the character will be broken and unfinished if the golden grace is missing. This has been singularly forgotten by the Church. Anything but Christian charity has been sought after. In the very zeal for other excellences this one has been trampled underfoot.
II. LOVE IS THE CROWNING CHRISTIAN GRACE. "Above all these things put on love."
1. Love is the highest pinnacle of the Christian temple. Too often the supremacy has been given to orthodoxy, to negative purity, or to rigorous devotion. It has to be learnt that it is better to be heterodox and to love our brethren, than to be sound in doctrine and selfish in heart. It needs also to be more understood that he who denies himself most for his brother stands higher than he who is simply irreproachable in behaviour.
2. Love is thus supreme
(1) because it is of the essential nature of God, who is love;
(2) because it is the source of all other graces;
(3) because in itself it is better than anything else.
III. LOVE BINDS TOGETHER ALL OTHER CHRISTIAN GRACES. Without it the character is not only imperfect, it lacks unity and cohesion. Love is like the keystone of the arch, which beth completes the structure and holds all the other stones together.
1. Love should surround every other grace as the bend surrounds the bundle. Purity, truth, justice, courage, temperance, etc., should all be exercised in love.
2. Love should bring all other graces nearer together. Through love we should realize the relation between generosity and justice, purity and liberty, meekness and courage.
3. Love should make a harmonious whole of the character. The separate sticks become one bundle when tied up together. Love should give unity of spirit and purpose to the whole life.
4. Love should perfect the strength of the Christian character. When all the graces are bound by the bond of love they mutually strengthen one another. Selfishness distracts, divides, and weakens life. The soul that is possessed by love is strong.—W.F.A.
Peace the umpire.
St. Paul is not exactly desiring that the peace of Christ may have a large place in the hearts of his readers, that it may be unfettered and dominant, that it may govern all the affections and passions of the soul, as the translation in our Authorized Version would lead us to read his words, and as they are commonly quoted. Instead of the word "rule" we should read "arbitrate." The apostle would have this peace arbitrating among the conflicting claims of various interests and the mutually opposing forces of various thoughts and feelings. In fact, it is to be an umpire.
I. WE NEED AN UMPIRE IN OUR HEARTS. The conditions of our troublesome inner life prove this necessity.
1. The war of passions. Earthly desire fights against heavenly aspiration, bodily appetite against spiritual hunger, selfish greed against generous love, wild passion against pure emotion.
2. The conflict of claims. Public claims conflict with private claims. Future interests do not agree with temporary advantages. We are drawn hither and thither by cross attractions, confused by a babel of contradictory voices, urged by the force of a tempest of impulses.
3. The distraction of doubts. Our thoughts will not harmonize. One idea clashes with another. We hear no music of the spheres in the circling doubts of our troubled minds. We need an umpire to help us to discover what are true among so many prophet voices.
II. PEACE IS THE UMPIRE SEEDED BY OUR HEARTS. When we possess our souls in quietness we are able to see the right and the truly desirable as we never can while we are distracted by exciting influences.
1. Peace arbitrates between the passions. Like a runaway horse who has taken the bit in his teeth and rushes on blindly to destruction, passion sees nothing, and the soul possessed by passion wrecks its highest interests. We must be calm to know what feelings may be indulged and what must be curbed.
2. Peace arbitrates between conflicting claims. When all claimants shout together it is impossible to discover the rights of any. There must be quiet in the court of justice. There must be quiet in the soul, that a calm consideration of apparently opposed duties and interests may be made.
3. Peace arbitrates between distracting thoughts. While the storm rages the sea is turbid. The waters must be calm if we are to look down to the pearls that may lie in their depths. We must think quietly if we would think truly.
III. IS CHRIST WE FIND THE PEACE WHICH WILL BE THE UMPIRE NEEDED BY OUR SOULS. It is vain simply to exhort the heart to beat more calmly. The very effort to do so only increases the perturbation. It would be cruel mockery for a man to say to one in distress and tumult, "Let peace arbitrate in your heart." You may as well command the wild waves of the sea to hush themselves to rest.
1. Christ gives peace. He who said, "Peace, be still!" to the waters and there was a great calm, speaks peace to the troubled soul: "Come unto me,… and I will give you rest."
2. Christ gives his own peace. The peace of Christ is that which dwells in him. As he desired that his joy might be in his disciples, so he also blessed them by leaving his own peace as a legacy when he departed. "My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27). Nothing is more wonderful, nothing is more beautiful, than the calmness of Jesus among the storms of human foes and diabolical temptations that beat upon him. Like the steady beams of the lighthouse shining calmly over a wild waste of howling waters, Christ, the Light of the world, shone in quietness of soul over all storms and tumults. Now he gives this his peace to his people.—W.F.A.
Psalmody held a very prominent position in Jewish worship, and there are evidences from the apostolic writings that it was not less honoured in the Christian Church. Certainly a dispensation which was ushered in by angel anthems, and which surpassed all that went before it in gladness, should not be wanting in scope for praise and adoration. The Church that neglects psalmody neglects a most important element of its life and work, and will assuredly suffer in consequence. Let us especially beware of the absurd notion that good music is essentially allied to any particular kind of teaching, and the most foolish, suicidal policy of degrading the service of song because we may not agree with the doctrines of those people who develop it most richly. This is to leave to them a monopoly of a pleasing attraction and of a function of the Christian life which all Christians have a right and a duty to employ. If it was wise not to "let the devil have all the best tunes," it must be unwise to permit those people whose religious teaching we think erroneous to have all the good music. Consider some of the leading characteristics of good psalmody.
I. IT SHOULD BE BEAUTIFUL. This is but an external condition, and worthless without higher qualifications. But it is not unimportant.
1. We should offer our best to God. It is unworthy to cultivate good music in our homes and to seek the best music for our entertainments, and to yet offer our praises to God in slovenly, unmusical tones.
2. We should help the expression of our own devotion by all means in our power. Good psalmody will not create devotion in an undevout heart, but it will assist it in one that is devout, while wearisome dulness and jarring discords will greatly hinder it.
3. We should attract others to our religion. It is not only lawful, it is our duty, to use all means that we may win some. No means are more effective than good psalmody. Now, this beauty of psalmody is evidently contemplated by St. Paul. "Psalms" represent what is sung to musical accompaniments; "songs," what is rendered in poetry. Poetry and music constitute the external beauty of psalmody.
II. IT SHOULD BE HEARTFELT. "Singing with grace in your hearts."
1. The first condition is the enjoyment of Divine grace. Psalmody should be the expression of adoration and praise in response to the grace of God. If we have not the grace we cannot truly take our part in the Church's song of praise. But let us not distress ourselves with the narrow notion that none who are not clearly spiritual Christians can take part in Christian psalmody. For the grace of God is so wide and various that every man has tasted some, and they who have not the highest grace have still enough for devout thankfulness.
2. The praise must come from the heart. Whether we have received much or little grace we must be consciously thankful, and must sing God's praises in our souls if we are really to praise him at all. After all, the music of the heart, even if it be sounded forth by a very harsh voice, is what God most values.
III. IT SHOULD BE OFFERED TO GOD, THOUGH ALSO AIMED AT OUR OWN MUTUAL INSTRUCTION.
1. The first great object of psalmody is "singing … unto God." This gives to it its peculiar solemn interest. Worship is expressed by it, and worship is the noblest act of the soul.
2. Nevertheless, indirectly we teach and admonish one another by these songs. Strictly didactic poetry is not, perhaps, either very interesting or very instructive. But the experience of one soul when breathed forth in song may be helpful to another soul. Hence the supreme value of the Hebrew psalms, those inimitable expressions of universal religious experience. We may receive in song what we would not heed or feel when offered in formal instruction.—W.F.A.
Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19
Husbands and wives.
(See on Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:23.)—W.F.A.
Colossians 3:20, Colossians 3:21
Children and parents.
(See on Ephesians 6:1-49.6.4.)—W.F.A.
Verse 22-Colossians 4:1
Servants and masters.
(See on Ephesians 6:5-49.6.9.)—W.F.A.
Colossians 3:24 (last clause)
The service of Christ.
St. Paul is giving directions to bondservants. But if they serve the Lord Christ, so also must all other Christians (Colossians 4:1). The principles of conduct recommended to the slaves may be taken home to ourselves by all of us.
I. CHRISTIANITY IS THE SERVICE OF THE LORD CHRIST, St. Paul, the greatest of the apostles, called himself the "bond servant of Jesus Christ." Christ spoke of his disciples as "servants" (Matthew 10:24), though he generously raised them above the common limitations of service by admitting them into the confidences of friendship (John 15:15). The gospel first offers free gifts—grace, love, forgiveness, etc. But while accepting these gifts, and neither needing nor able to make any adequate return, we are not to be nothing but recipients. The blessings are given to fit us for service.
The Church is not an almshouse for the indolent; it is a hive of industry. Christ is Master as well as Saviour. The first act of faith is to receive the grace of Christ in order that the second may be to obey his commandments (John 14:15).
II. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST EXTENDS TO THE WHOLE OF LIFE. It is not simply a matter of what we call religious affairs, the devotions of the sanctuary, etc. It is not merely the doing of work that is called spiritual, such as preaching, teaching, etc. The bond servants are bidden to serve Christ in their daily work. They are exhorted to work heartily as unto the Lord, in whatsoever they do (Colossians 3:23). We must serve Christ in our daily business.
III. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST MUST BE SINCERE.
1. It must not degenerate into eye service. Our work is not to please men, but to serve Christ. His eye is ever on us. It matters little whether men admire or neglect our work.
2. It must be done in singleness of heart. Christ will take no divided devotion. We must not be covertly seeking our own interests as distinct from the interests of Christ, so as to have a double, distracting, and often conflicting series of ends to be pursued. We shall gain our own blessedness in the single-eyed service of Christ, and not as a side issue.
3. It must be done from the heart. It must be no mechanical work. We must think about it and put our heart and soul into it. There is a world of difference between the obedience that simply follows the word of command as the signal rises or falls when the lever is moved, and the obedience that considers, feels, and adopts the wishes of the master, and carries them out intelligently and voluntarily, as the signalman interprets and follows the code of directions.
IV. SUCH SERVICE OF CHRIST ENNOBLES ALL WORK. Work is noble or mean, not so much because of the kind of things done, as on account of the motives that inspire it. A surgeon has to do things which would be disgusting in themselves, but which are refined by the humane motives that prompt them. No task undertaken for a pure purpose can be degrading. The most menial work done for Christ's sake is elevated to the level of the devotion of the angels.
V. CHRIST WILL RECOMPENSE HIS SERVANTS ACCORDING TO THEIR SERVICE. "We shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." This is the judgment of Christians. We are inclined to forget this while warning publicans and sinners of their coming judgment. Christians will have to give an account of the use of their talent.
1. Then deceitful eye service will be exposed and punished.
2. Then faithful, obscure devotion will be revealed and rewarded.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Colossians 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent